Vendors respond to Mayor’s plan remove sidewalk sales in downtown Nashville area

Mayor Cooper wants to extend the area where vendors are not allowed.
Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 6:26 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Mayor John Cooper said Monday he is looking to remove street vendors from some major areas downtown. Those who run their vending businesses downtown said Tuesday there has to be a better option.

Chase Howard with Sageway Wellness said for many vendors downtown maybe officials should focus on the vendors who are breaking the set rules.

Howard said when the business first opened, the pandemic had shut down everything.

“We had to find a way to transition to a B-to-C customer base that was profitable, Howard, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Sageway Wellness, said. “Starting a brick and mortar, especially having a setback like that, just wasn’t in the cards for us, and vending seemed like a nice alternative to that given the situation we found ourselves in.”

You can find Howard’s table at the corner of Broadway and Rep. John Lewis Way, doing business six days a week, 10-12 hours a day.

“We do stay fairly busy,” Howard said.

This alternative livelihood for Howard could end with Cooper’s proposal to extend no sidewalk vending zones to include between Union Street and Korean Veterans Boulevard on the north and south and the Cumberland River and Eighth Avenue on the east and west.

“To remove vending entirely or to make it too inconvenient for us to come out here anymore would make a significant impact on us as a company,” Howard said. “I don’t think it would necessarily break us, but it would be an unprecedented challenge.”

Howard believes there has to be better options.

“I think there’s a more reasonable solution than making a flat policy that would get rid of vending in its entirety,” he said.

He suggests instead officials focus on vendors who aren’t in compliance.

“I think a simple solution to that would be looking at which vendors have been repeat offenders, look at how many tickets they have accrued, maybe come up with some sort of policy that will make it harder for those that can’t stay within compliance,” Howard said.

Howard said his vending business has its permit and insurance and all that isn’t cheap.

“It’s certainly not inexpensive to start doing something like this. The insurance itself is several hundred dollars a month,” Howard said. “For those that might just be starting their own business, it’s rather expensive to begin, and for that to be taken away from them would be catastrophic to many individuals who are local to the area.”

Mayor Cooper said in a letter to the Traffic and Parking Commission that he had received complaints from businesses and residents about sidewalk vendors, but Howard said he gets along with residents of the area. Howard said that vendors are part of the fabric of downtown.

“Nashville has been very friendly to vending,” Howard said. “Anywhere from what you’ll see with the local musicians, the artists, people that handcraft t-shirts, the guitar spring jewelry people; they all add a little bit of flare to Nashville.”

Howard also had a message for the Metro Traffic and Parking Commission.

“I would hope that they allow us to have more open communication,” Howard said.

News4 reached out to the Traffic and Parking Commission on what the next step will be. The commission has not responded.

Cooper also requested the commission consider enhanced penalties for non-compliant vendors.

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