A new taco stand and a roasted-nut seller are set to be the latest additions in the Italian Market’s recent strategy to attract vendors to fill up the vacancies along 9th Street. The Ginger Snap’s organic grocer recently opened toward the north end of the market.
Michele Gambino, the business manager for the South 9th Street Business Association, said the progress in attracting new vendors has been slowed by antiquated regulations that she, the city and Councilman Mark Squilla’s office have been working to change.
“We need to get legislation to change anything,” Gambino said of the codes governing open-air markets. “We’re operating under regulations from 1907 that have never been updated.”
Two issues are at play: each business’ “entrance point” and the amount of street space the vendors can use. Regarding the entrance points, the rules as written say that vendors can’t set up sidewalk retail space in front of their door, but some vendors have a completely open facade with a roll-up garage door. And on the street, Gambino said the market is looking to draw a line seven feet from the curb to denote what is a travel lane and what is vendor space.
“The code specifies nothing,” she said. “Think about in 1907, there was no bus, there were no trucks. There were carts and horses. Maybe a few years later there started to be some cars, and at one point there was a trolley that went down the street.”
A line was on the street until the 1950s but it was never repainted after it faded. Gambino noted that L&I has not ticketed vendors for these so-called violations and that the agency has been very helpful with working to change the rules.
“Now that we’re in a revitalization project, with that comes change,” she said. “Now everything’s being scrutinized, and we’re seeing some of the codes need to be updated.”
Aside from tweaking the codes, Gambino said the market is trying to attract craft sellers and other food stands to diversify the options. The $300 a month rental fee per stand goes toward the market’s revitalization efforts. For instance, the business association paid for the new awning at Ginger Snap’s.
In the meantime, Gambino said the taco stand and roasted-nuts seller is still on track despite the impending code changes. Gambino noted that anyone selling food will need to pass a health inspection and that just because you’re looking to open a “curbside stand,” it doesn’t mean you can skirt the requirements of being a legitimate business, like filing for a business license with the city.