Vending Problems in the City of Cleveland

By Kim “Supermutt” Goodman


For years the city of Cleveland had three vending zones for entrepreneurs who bought peddler’s licenses for the downtown area. Zone 1 was created for the Browns games. The area covers W. 9th to E 12th from Lakeside to Superior. Zone 2 was for the Indians and Cavs. The service area was E. 9th to E 14th from Prospect to Carnegie. Zone 3 was created to serve the Convocation Center area. When the Convocation Center became less popular things changed. Zone 1 didn’t change but Zones 2 and 3 were combined and became the new Zone 3.

There was a limited amount of 9th Street permits so each person’s name was placed in a lottery. If a person’s name was selected someone from City Hall would call them and they had the option to accept it or decline it. This usually happens before the beginning of baseball season. If the person accepted the 9th street permit, their license would be updated until the end of baseball season even though permits normally expire July 31st.

This year things changed in Zone 3 and a new Zone 4 was created for the Playhouse Square area. Zone 3 was separated by spots that were supposedly given by a computer generated system. The way this is supposed to work is that when a person buys a permit for Zone 3, the computer assigns them a spot. The rule is that each person or business can buy up to 5 licenses; that is, if one can afford to.

Therefore, if one person bought up 5 spots, but didn’t get the spot they wanted, they would use someone else to buy 5 more until they got that spot. Another person bought 5 spots and didn’t get the spot he wanted, so he did the same to get the spot he wanted. In the end he had a bunch of spots. When other people went to renew their licenses, they either got a crappy spot or no spot at all. Many long-time vendors were out of work (can’t sell because they don’t have a permit) while waiting to see if their names came up on the waiting list.

There is nothing wrong with allowing people to buy up a bunch of spots to get the spot they want if they can afford to do it. What is unfair about it is not requiring the people to forfeit the areas they don’t want, so the lower income vendors can have a good spot. Not every vendor is a big business. Some people who sell merchandise and peanuts in the downtown area are people who don’t have a lot but are trying to earn an honest living. They are people with disabilities who struggle with standard employment, who may have at one time been under-employed or un-employed. They are people who are elderly and need a little extra money to make ends meet or people who have retired from their jobs and need something else to do. It doesn’t matter if a person is a big business or a low-income person in search of an extra income. Each person should have the right to earn some type of an income for themselves.

I write about this, because this affects me. In addition to selling the paper I also sell peanuts and handmade necklaces. I used to sell merchandise without a permit when I was homeless; they wouldn’t sell me one because I didn’t have a physical street address. There were plenty of times when I got a ticket for selling with no license because I couldn’t get one. As soon as I got my first real place to live, I got a Zone 1 permit. I’ve held a Zone 1 permit since 2003. It wasn’t until 2012 that I decided to break down and buy a Zone 3 permit. Each year I’ve bought a permit faithfully. My spot has always been in the area of Prospect and 9th Street. Now my new spot is 14th and Carnegie. Because there is very little foot traffic in that area, I am not making any money.

I contacted City Hall to see about getting my spot changed, but as of the time I am writing this article, nothing has been done.