Atlanta Vendors File Major Lawsuit Against City, Join National Street Vending Initiative

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · July 27, 2011

Arlington, Va.— Should the city of Atlanta be allowed to create a single street vending monopoly that forces existing vendors to start paying up to $20,000 in rent and fees every year?

That is the question to be answered by a major lawsuit filed today by the Institute for Justice (IJ)—a national civil liberties law firm—and two well-known Atlanta vending entrepreneurs: Larry Miller and Stanley Hambrick. The attorneys and vendors will be available for interviews immediately following today’s 11:00am news conference.

In conjunction with the lawsuit, the Institute released a national report, Streets of Dreams, which reviews vending laws in America’s 50 largest cities. The lawsuit and report continue IJ’s National Street Vending Initiative, a nationwide effort to vindicate the right of street vendors to earn an honest living. Earlier this year, El Paso, Texas, repealed its protectionist vending regulations in response to an IJ lawsuit.

Practiced since ancient times, street vending is more popular than ever. The Economist magazine predicted that this year “some of the best food Americans eat may come from a food truck.” For generations, street vending has been a classic way for entrepreneurs to provide for themselves and their families while creating jobs and satisfying customer demands.

But two years ago, Atlanta handed over all public-property vending to a single company—the first program of its kind in the country. Now that company wants to throw Larry Miller and Stanley Hambrick out of the spots they have worked for over a decade to build kiosks that rent for almost $20,000 a year. If it succeeds, Larry and Stanley’s businesses will be destroyed.

“Atlanta has the worst vending laws in the entire country,” said IJ Staff Attorney Robert Frommer, lead counsel in today’s lawsuit. “Atlanta should be encouraging entrepreneurship in these tough economic times, but Atlanta’s vending monopoly stifles the economic growth that the city desperately needs.”

Larry and Stanley own two popular vending businesses outside Turner Field, the Atlanta Braves stadium. They create jobs, offer inexpensive snacks and souvenirs to visitors, and make the sidewalks safer by keeping an eye out for fans that need help.

“If they put me inside of a kiosk, it would be like putting me in a coffin,” said Larry Miller. “For me to have a kiosk instead of my regular setup would destroy my business. I have a family to feed, this is my livelihood. What would I do?”

“I’ve been able to put my kids through college working here and being successful,” said Stanley Hambrick. “I employ six people and they are depending on me, and I’m depending on them now. I’m fighting for my American Dream. And I’m fighting for the rights of other vendors and small businesses.”

Atlanta is not the only city stifling vendors with burdensome laws. Streets of Dreams shows that 45 of America’s 50 largest cities put real barriers in the way of street vendors. For instance:

• 5 cities prevent mobile vendors from stopping and parking unless flagged by a customer.
• 19 cities permit mobile vendors to stay in one spot for only small amounts of time, forcing vendors to spend much of their day moving instead of selling.
• 20 cities ban vendors from setting up near brick-and-mortar businesses that sell the same or similar goods.
• 33 cities have established No Vending Zones, which often include potentially lucrative areas such as downtown or areas near sporting venues.

A victory in this case could have nationwide implications. For more on today’s lawsuit and report, visit The Institute for Justice is the nation’s leading legal advocate for the rights of entrepreneurs. IJ is available on Facebook, YouTube and twitter.