City of Madison Common Council met Tuesday night to discuss the future of the late night vending climate on Library Mall and State Street.
A proposed ordinance sponsored by Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, and Ald. Zach Wood, District 8, would amend the late night vending license procedures for this year. Additionally, the ordinance will phase out late night vending over a period of five years.
Manager of the Office of Business Resources Dan Kennelly was present at the council meeting to give background on the ordinance.
“Late night vending has always been a challenge for us,” Kennelly said. “Right now we have four licensed late night vendors, and those vendors take up the volume of street vending activity, as well as our staff time because of the issues that it brings.”
Kennelly said the Office of Business Resources does not take this issue lightly, as it will affect the lives of the many vendors who rely on late night vending. But the Office believes there are more options to grow the Madison vending program through other opportunities.
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The late night vending program has existed in Madison for nearly seven years, with most of the four vendors around for that time if not longer, Kennelly said.
The ordinance would phase out existing late night vending sites and zones over the next five years and establish a procedure for planning staff to create sites with the Chief of Police’s written approval.
The only eligible applicants are vendors who have held a license at any time in the past two years. They will then be assigned to a site based on seniority.
The ordinance was also pushed into motion after an incident involving the vendors and a gun on State Street this past October. Madison Police Department Lieutenant for the Central District Brian Chaney Austin was at the council meeting to explain incidents that spurred the new legislation.
“As a result of [the October incident], we took up the issue of vending oversight and addressing it,” Chaney Austin said.
Chaney Austin said Library Mall is a great location for the vendors, as it is well-lit, confined and an area the police are able to better control and monitor behavior in. These issues are the reason why there have been so many violent crimes associated with the late night vendors, Chaney Austin said.
But many of the vendors are not in support of this ordinance as they believe Library Mall brings them less business, Kennelly said.
To conclude the discussion, Verveer stated his support of the decision and mentioned that the vendors cannot be blamed for the negative incidents. Instead, Verveer credited the need for change to the presence of intoxicated customers.
Verveer also acknowledged vendors’ circumstances.
“The [vendors] were present at the meeting and testified against the ordinance, and we had a very important and meaningful conversation with them,” Verveer said. “Their concern was two-fold; one, given our history of constantly changing the vending locations, where were they going to be in the next month, and secondarily, what would happen in the next five years.”
Verveer noted that in the next five years by moving the vendors for Library Mall, there will hopefully be new legislation to deal with vendors differently and make it a safer solution while continuing late night vending.
The council passed the ordinance, which will go into effect for the 2018-19 vending season beginning April 15.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated the late night vendors would be eliminated immediately. The article has since been updated to reflect the fact that vendors will not move to Library Mall until 2023.