Atlanta Vending

Miller v. City of Atlanta
Challenging Atlanta, Georgia’s Unconstitutional Vending Monopoly
Larry Miller, Atlanta Vendor

IJ clients Stanley Hambrick (above) and Larry Miller (below) are two well-known vendors outside Turner Field.

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For generations, street vending has been a classic way to succeed with only a strong work ethic and a desire to succeed.  It is a path that cities should encourage, particularly in these tough economic times.  But rather than fostering entrepreneurship and opportunity, Atlanta has done its best to smother it.
Larry Miller and Stanley Hambrick owned two well-known vending businesses outside the Atlanta Braves stadium.  Their businesses created jobs, offered inexpensive snacks and souvenirs to visitors, and made the sidewalks safer by keeping an eye out for fans who needed help.  But in 2009, the City of Atlanta handed over all public-property vending to a single company—the first program of its kind in the country.  The first phase of the program shut down approximately 16 vending businesses, costing dozens of people their jobs.  The company planned to roll out Phase II outside the Braves stadium, which would have thrown Larry and Stanley out of the spots they worked for decades to build kiosks that would rent for almost $20,000 a year.  Had it succeeded, Larry and Stanley’s businesses would have been destroyed.
To protect the economic liberty of all Georgians, Larry and Stanley joined with the Institute for Justice to challenge Atlanta’s vending monopoly.  In a lawsuit filed on July 28, 2011 in the Superior Court for Fulton County, Georgia, the Institute for Justice argued that Atlanta did not have the power to grant an exclusive vending franchise and that its actions violated the Georgia constitution. 
The court agreed, holding on December 21, 2012 that Atlanta had exceeded its authority in handing one company the exclusive right to vend on public property.  That decision became final the following month when the city chose not to appeal the loss.  This victory by IJ saved Larry and Stanley’s businesses and forced other cities to think twice before entering into similarly anticompetitive arrangements.
But several months later, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed cracked down on the city’s vendors by refusing to renew their vending licenses or let them operate.  In support of his crackdown, Mayor Reed argued that IJ’s victory left the city with no vending law, but the court’s opinion clearly states “the City may continue its other licensing and regulatory operations.” 
IJ immediately jumped into action by organizing the vendors and attempting to persuade Mayor Reed that his scorched-earth policy was both legally incorrect and morally untenable.  When he refused to listen, the Institute joined with Stanley Hambrick to sue a second time and require the city to let people work under the original vending law, which the court’s opinion had restored. 
The court agreed and on October 8, 2013 ordered Mayor Reed to fulfill his legal duties.  Yet despite this clear command, he still refused to act.  IJ asked the court to hold Mayor Reed guilty of contempt for his shocking flouting of its rulings, and to order him to let the vendors work as if he had actually followed the law.  The court refused, however, and on June 30, 2014 the Georgia Supreme Court refused to hear the case.  Although the legal battle is at an end, the Institute for Justice continues to press for the rights of vendors both in Atlanta and nationwide.



Essential Background

Audio, Video and Images

Backgrounder: Atlanta Strikes Out: Challenging Atlanta, Georgia’s Unconstitutional Vending Monopoly

Client Video

Client Photos

Latest Release: Georgia Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Atlanta Street Vending Appeal (June 30, 2014)

Launch Release: Atlanta Vendors File Major Lawsuit Against City, Join National Street Vending Initiative (July 28, 2011)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Order on Injunction and Crim Contempts (February 10, 2014)

Order on Contempt (November 12, 2013)

Final Order (October 8, 2013)

Clarification of Order (July 3, 2013)
Decision (December 21, 2012)
Read the complaint (filed July 28, 2011)
Defendant Response Interlocutory Injunction (PDF)
Reply Brief Motion Interlocutory Injunction (PDF)
Motion for Interlocutory Injunction (PDF)
Petition for Writ of Mandamus (PDF)

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit: 


July 28, 2011

Court Filed:


Fulton County Superior Court



Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment

 Current Court:

Fulton County Superior Court

On December 21, 2012, Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua of the Fulton County Superior Court invalidated the City of Atlanta’s Public Vending Management Program.  In her opinion, Judge LaGrua held that the contract the City entered into with the private company gave the latter the “exclusive right” to vend on public property in Atlanta.  Because the City of Atlanta did not have the authority to hand out exclusive franchises, its actions were null and void.  Judge LaGrua’s decision became final on January 22, 2013, when the City of Atlanta failed to appeal its loss.


Closed: Victory


Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Atlanta Court Denies Vendors’ Motion for Contempt; Vendors to Appeal Mayor’s Lawless Actions to the Georgia Supreme Court (February 14, 2014)

none available

Release: Atlanta Court Denies Vendors’ Motion for Contempt; Vendors Undeterred, Vow to Seek Criminal Contempt Against Mayor (November 4, 2013)


Release: Atlanta Court Denies Vendors’ Motion for Contempt; Vendors Undeterred, Vow to Seek Criminal Contempt Against Mayor (November 4, 2013)


Release: Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Blasts Atlanta Mayor For Disregarding Court Orders, Hostility to Small Business (November 4, 2013)


Release: Judge Slaps Down Atlanta’s Illegal Attempt to Throw Vendors Out of Work (October 8, 2013)


Release: Atlanta Vendors Ask Court for Immediate Action (August 30, 2013)

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Release: Victory for Atlanta Vendors: Court Holds That Atlanta Has Street Vending Law in Place (July 3, 2013)

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Blasts Atlanta Mayor For Disregarding Court Orders, Hostility to Small Business (November 4, 2013)

Release: Atlanta Takes “Scorched Earth” Policy Against Local Vendors (March 29, 2013) Related Case: El Paso Vending: Casteneda v. City of El Paso
Release: Court Gives a Christmas Victory to Atlanta Street Vendors; Court Strikes Down Government-Granted Vending Monopoly (December 21, 2012) Related Case: Chicago Food Trucks - Burke v. City of Chicago
Release: Entrepreneurs Receive Letter from City Throwing Them Out of Business on December 31 (December 20, 2012)
Release: Trial Court Denies Effort to Protect Turner Field Vendors (January 30, 2012)

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