Dallas Encourages Downtown Street Vendors

Dallas considers relaxing rules that currently discourage downtown street vendors

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Monday, Nov 14, 2011  |  Updated 7:24 PM CDT
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Dallas considers relaxing rules that currently discourage downtown street vendors, with thoughts that flower, souvenir and food carts could make downtown more exciting.

Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News

Dallas considers relaxing rules that currently discourage downtown street vendors, with thoughts that flower, souvenir and food carts could make downtown more exciting.

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Promoting downtown street vendors is the goal of a plan in the works at Dallas City Hall.

Downtown boosters have been after the city for some time to make changes to city codes that they say discourage street vendors from doing business.

"It wasn't convenient," said John Crawford with Downtown Dallas Inc. "We want these changes to be an improvement, not an impediment."

Downtown Dallas officer workers on their lunch break Monday said they miss the hot dog vendor who used to be at the corner of Akard and Main.

"I think it would be good to give people more choices, more lunchtime food, and things of that nature," officer worker Cordell Hudson said.

But it may be hard for vendors to survive in Downtown Dallas, officer worker Michelle Kuckelman said.

"In the center where all these kind of corporations are, we really only come out for lunch," she said.

Dallas leaders say they want the central business district to be appealing at all hours.

They say street vendors make other cities more vibrant and could do the same in Dallas with the right rules to help encourage those small businesses.

"These are part of the quick wins we think we can put in place without having to spend an enormous amount of money and taking a real long time to get them done," Crawford said.

Currently, street vendors in Dallas must close by 8 p.m.

Proposed changes would extend hours until midnight, reduce permit red tape and add fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables to the products street vendors can sell.

The Dallas City Council Quality of Life Committee reviewed the changes Monday but asked city staff to return with more details.

"The council is very much behind this," said Councilwoman Angela Hunt, chair of the committee. "We want to make sure we do it right and we have the right regulations in place, so we're going to look at these other cities, bring it back with the comparisons and make sure we have the very best ordinance in place."

One focus of the new plan would be promotion of vendors near downtown Dallas Area Rapid Transit Rail stations.

Waiting at the St. Paul DART Rail Station on Monday, Arthur Curry said fast food and other small items would be helpful at stations.

"A lot of times, you don't have time to go in and wait in line and get certain things," he said.

But several existing businesses next to the St. Paul Station say they count on rail passengers, including JusMex Restaurant.

Manager Rolff Camey said he was unhappy to hear about the city's street vendor plan.

"The location is good because the train is out there, so it would be bad idea to put vendors outside -- definitely negative," he said.

The city leaders supporting the plan say more vibrancy would be good for all businesses.

"Street vending brings life, and that kind of life brings customers, and that means more customers for both the folks who are vendors, and the folks who are tenants in the buildings," Hunt said.

Crawford and Hunt said they hope the Dallas City Council will receive additional information and take action on the plan in January.

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