Atlanta street vendors are hopeful for huge crowds and big business as the Braves open their 2012 home schedule. But those vendors, some of whom have done Braves pre-game business for 30 years, are concerned this year may be the end of the line for their street vending run.
"Basically I could lose a 30 year business," said Larry Miller, who started selling Braves T-shirts outside the old Fulton County Stadium in 1981.
"I know people from all walks of life, from around the world I've met here," Miller said.
A deal between the City of Atlanta and General Growth Properties would allow that company to be the sole manager of street vending sites around the city, including in front of Turner Field. Miller and his fellow vendor Stanley Hambrick said the rental rates they would be required to pay GGP could run as high as $20,000 a year.
Instead of setting up their own tents, they would use GGP's kiosks, set up in certain locations.
"That kiosk looks like a coffin to me, it doesn't look like an opportunity," Miller said.
He and Hambrick have filed a lawsuit against the city, arguing they are trying to sell public right-of-way street space to one management company, thereby creating a monopoly on the industry and forcing vendors out of business.
The Institute for Justice has joined the legal battle on behalf of Miller and Hambrick, saying the Atlanta case could set a precedent, good or bad, for future scenarios across the country.
An attorney for the City of Atlanta said the deal was made with GGP because the street vending industry in Atlanta needs better management. That's why they've hired the company to do that work, and regulate kiosks.
They said it is still not known how much vendors like Miller and Hambrick would have to pay to operate under that agreement. Miller said he has to assume the worst.
"I'm a little disgusted over the fact that we're still in court with this case," he said. "We don't really know what's going on."
Miller said he will set up his tent per usual on opening night outside the stadium and sell souvenirs as he's always done, until someone tells him he has to move.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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