Atlanta Braves fans are a hardy lot. They laugh in the face of summer afternoon games when other teams are installing retractable roofs. Atlanta’s traffic is second to none, and yet thousands will crawl along I-85 for miles to get to the stadium. There’s nothing quite like that electric atmosphere when Turner Field first comes into view.
Atlanta entrepreneurs Larry Miller and Stanley Hambrick know this. For years they’ve made their living selling Braves merchandise from those familiar white tents outside Turner Field. They’ve seen the Braves through thick and thin, cheering along with the thousands of fans who stop to take a look at their gear and perhaps buy a t-shirt before continuing into the game.
Well, fans should enjoy these vendors while they last because they may not be back next season. According to the City of Atlanta, the successful independent businesses that Larry, Stanley, and others have established just aren’t attractive enough. Evidently there are concerns that the same fans who are willing to turn up in 95 degree heat and pay $20 for the privilege of parking a half mile away from the stadium will turn back around or be dissuaded from attending games unless all entrepreneurs surrounding the stadium are housed in matching metal box structures.
Assistant City Attorney Laura Burton has announced that the City of Atlanta’s power to “control the streets” and regulate street vending includes making judgment calls about the attractiveness of vending structures and deciding exactly what goods a peddler can sell.
Adding insult to injury, two years ago under the leadership of former Mayor Shirley Franklin, Atlanta gave a single company control over all street vending. Now, vendors must get the company’s permission to work and are only allowed if they agree to use (and pay steep rent for) new structures owned by General Growth Properties. The Chicago-based company has Atlanta’s blessing to impose regulations on long-standing, successful vendors and evict them if they don’t comply.
Larry and Stanley want to stay right where they are. Both have operated their businesses near Turner Field for more than 20 years and like many Americans before him, Stanley would like to leave his business to his son one day. They’ve teamed up with the Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm, to sue the city and fight for their right to earn an honest living.
In early September they argued before the Fulton County Superior Court that Atlanta’s actions awarding General Growth Properties exclusive rights over vending on public property violated the Georgia Constitution. They hope for a decision in enough time to start preparations for another busy baseball season. But, for now, their future remains in limbo.
So far, this city “improvement” has driven 16 entrepreneurs out of business. That’s 16 local businesses, built from the ground up, that used to provide a living for Atlanta families that no longer exist. General Growth Properties—in part thanks to the 20-year, multimillion dollar contract from Atlanta—is doing quite well.
It’s time to get our priorities in order. The fact that the City of Atlanta gave a private company the power to evict independent entrepreneurs with otherwise successful businesses should offend fans far more than innocent white tents filled with Braves merchandise.
Year after year, those tents are stocked with baseball caps, t-shirts and beautiful bright red jerseys—an unmistakable reminder that you’ve emerged from behind the brake lights and officially arrived in Braves country. More importantly, they’re a reminder that we live in the United States of America, where entrepreneurs have the right to earn an honest living in the occupation of their choosing.
Melissa Lopresti is a communications associate with the Institute for Justice in Arlington, Va.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire