Vendors Fight For Space

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

June 23, 2006

Vendors have been a part of the the downtown mall for years, but some say new rules may be hurting business.

The middle of the mall is the most coveted real estate, where there are 14 spots and only six are unreserved.

City Council set fees for the vendor spots and designated plots as reserved and unreserved. But some unassigned vendors say now they have to set-up as early as 5 a.m.

"If you have a double job, it's hard for you to come [out] at 5 o'clock in the morning and then work a nighttime job. You get no sleep. Sometimes you get 2-3 hours of sleep a night," said vendor Richard Bishop.

There are a total of 28 spaces. 13 are assigned and 15 unassigned.

"If you don't show-up in time, sometimes you've gotta move and if your customers don't know where you are, one minute they come back and the next day they're going to have to try and find you. I mean that's not very convenient for the vendors," said Bishop.

117 groups applied for spaces on the mall. The problem is there are only 28 spots. So the city rewarded veterans assigned spaces and the rest as first come first serve.

"All vendors have been able to get a spot on the mall. It may not be the particular spot that they are used to setting up, but I have not had any issues yet," said Charlottesville Zoning Inspector Ryan Mickles.

They city says the new rules don't necessarily cut out spots. Before there were areas and restrictions as to where vendors could set-up. Now there are physical definitions.

Not all the vendors show-up every week, but for those who do they think they have a solution.

"If a person's been in a certain spot for a certain amount of time, give them the opportunity to buy out that spot and say, 'hey I want this spot. Let us have this spot,'" said Bishop.

This isn't the only reason that business has been low this year. One vendor estimated that his sales were about half as high this year as they were at this time last year. He cited gas prices, the economy, and high parking fees as the reasons behind the decrease in business.

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