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Streets of Dreams

Atlanta’s city-wide monopoly on street vending is certainly the most restrictive vending law in the nation, but by no means is it the only law that keeps or puts vendors out of work.

The Institute for Justice’s new strategic research report, Streets of Dreams: How Cities Can Create Economic Opportunity by Knocking Down Protectionist Barriers to Street Vending, examines vending laws in the 50 largest U.S. cities. It finds that all but five place significant barriers in the way of would-be street sellers. (In a feature discussing the report, The Wall Street Journal called report co-author Bert Gall “the patron saint of food trucks.”)

These laws include outright bans on selling goods on public property, no-vending zones that keep vendors out of potentially lucrative areas such as downtown commercial districts, and proximity bans that prohibit vendors from setting up near brick-and-mortar businesses selling the same or similar goods.

Often in intent, and certainly in effect, these regulations do little but protect established brick-and-mortar businesses from upstart competitors. These laws deny would-be entrepreneurs the promise of self-sufficiency and upward mobility that vending offers and they deny consumers the wide variety of often low-cost goods vendors bring to communities.

Streets of Dreams recommends that cities encourage vibrant vending cultures by drafting clear, simple and modern rules that are narrowly tailored to address real health and safety issues. Then they should get out of the way and let vendors work and compete.

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