ATLANTA—Today, the Georgia Supreme Court refused to hear Stanley Hambrick’s appeal that would have allowed him and other street vendors to return to Turner Field. Now it is up to Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council to change their vending laws to allow the dozens of street vendors and their employees who previously worked outside of Turner Field to get back to work.
Three days before opening day in 2013, Atlanta officials forced all vendors off the streets. In response, Hambrick sued and the Fulton County Superior Court ordered the officials to accept vending applications and issue permits. When those officials refused to obey that court order, Hambrick asked the court to find those officials in contempt and recognize Atlanta street vendors’ right to return to work. The court denied those motions and Hambrick appealed.
“For almost an entire month Atlanta’s officials refused to follow an order requiring them to let the vendors return to work,” said attorney Robert Frommer of the Institute for Justice, which represents the vendors.“It is unfortunate that the Georgia Supreme Court chose not to take this opportunity to protect both the vendors’ constitutional rights and the rule of law.”
Although the Court’s decision today brings a close to Hambrick’s lawsuit, it opens a new chapter in the fight for Atlanta’s street vendors. Ms. Katrina Taylor Parks, deputy chief of staff for Mayor Reed, told the Atlanta City Council that the administration was planning to bring vending back to Turner Field but that the ongoing litigation was keeping it from moving forward. With the lawsuit now resolved, Atlanta’s former Turner Field vendors hope that the administration will keep its word and let them return to work.
“For over a year, Atlanta’s baseball vendors have been unable to provide for themselves and their families by working at their traditional locations,” said Larry Miller, president of the Atlanta Vendors Association. “The Atlanta Vendors Association looks forward to working with the administration to end this stalemate and bring sidewalk vending back to The Ted.”
Miller and Hambrick’s advocacy on behalf of Atlanta’s street vendors has been long-standing. Their efforts began in 2009, when then-Mayor Shirley Franklin signed an exclusive 20-year contract that handed over all street vending in Atlanta to a multi-billion-dollar Chicago company.Miller and Hambrick joined forces with the Institute for Justice in a lawsuit to challenge the vending monopoly, which was the first of its kind in the nation. Due to their efforts, the Fulton County Superior Court struck down the scheme in December 2012 and made clear that Atlanta could not eliminate small businesses by giving a government-created monopoly to a more politically connected company. It was in response to this ruling that Atlanta forced all vendors off the streets and prompted Hambrick to file his latest lawsuit.
The Institute for Justice is the national law firm for liberty. To read more on this lawsuit, visit www.ij.org/atlanta-vending.