Las Vegas street vendors worried about costs, police interactions as SB92 ordinances near

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Juan Gomez knows firsthand the risks street vendors take as they wait for city and county rules. His proof is on his phone: a picture of his son sprawled on the ground outside The Mirage Las Vegas, his face scraped on the sidewalk after an encounter with police.

Another photo shows the Las Vegas police officer he says is responsible.

Gomez was one of about 50 people packed into a room in an east Las Vegas strip mall to hear updates Tuesday night on efforts to legalize street vendors. The nonprofit group Make the Road Nevada welcomed them and gave a brief update and a timeline for the next steps in the process. By July, the first ordinances could emerge — more than a year after Senate Bill 92 (SB92) was passed by the Nevada Legislature and signed by Gov. Joe Lombardo.

State Sen. Fabian Doñate, a Las Vegas Democrat who sponsored SB92, was on hand to explain why the new law was one of his priorities at the 2023 session, and why the community needs to be patient as local governments do their part. County Commission Chairman Tick Segerblom was also there.

Street vendors are a part of the Hispanic community’s heritage. Doñate shared stories of his memories of buying food from vendors while he was growing up in Las Vegas. It was part of life for him and his family. He believes the vendors should be encouraged, not outlawed. Currently, a working group is making recommendations, and new ordinances will likely be drafted in May and go to a vote in July.

(Graphic: Make the Road Nevada)

Doñate said everyone is watching how the county puts regulations in place. And Make the Road Nevada is trying to get the word out to vendors — almost all Latinos who don’t speak English.

The nonprofit handed out cards to people who came to the meeting — a simple statement that they need a translator if they encounter police or other authorities who challenge their presence. It’s a right under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Gomez and others at the meeting are trying to find their way, navigating rules that are still forming — and often a mystery to vendors until they have broken a rule.

But one thing is certain. Vendors aren’t allowed on the Strip, on the Fremont Street Experience, near Allegiant Stadium, the Las Vegas Convention Center and other places that have been designated — although how clearly the areas are marked is sure to be debated as rules go into place.

Gomez was in a restricted zone when the violence occurred, selling flashy ornamental balloons and spinners. Doñate explained at the meeting that SB92 is meant to open doors for food vendors to sell in neighborhoods. Gomez was looking for help, and he’s still emotional about what happened on the Strip. At times during the meeting, Gomez sat in the audience with his head in his hands.

A major part of the political battle over street vendors centers around keeping them out of tourist corridors — where they would offer competition to resort businesses and potentially clog sidewalks, which is a safety concern. A look at a City of Las Vegas map (below) of downtown shows how far away the vendors are supposed to be stationed.

For some families, it’s extra income — money that makes a big difference for the household. And as they hear about some of the proposed costs of licenses ($150), they are wary. One man who spoke at the meeting talked about the prices of mayonnaise and cheese, and how inflation has hurt his ability to make money. To put an expensive license fee on top of that? “Imposible,” he told Doñate.

But for others, it’s more than a side hustle.

“People don’t want to work for some of the corporations who are not paying the workers a fair wage,” Tony Ramirez, government affairs manager for Make the Road Nevada, said. “This is a primary source of income for folks.”

Make the Road Nevada describes the community as willing to follow the rules. They’re not trying to make trouble.

“As a street vendor, permits should be easier to get,” according to Eduardo Moreno, a street vendor and also a member of the nonprofit group. “They are not just papers; they help us support our families. But getting them can be difficult because of the barriers they want to implement. We need a fair system so that everyone has the opportunity to succeed within our reality.”

Recently, more vendors have been popping up all over the valley. Some vendors are using a similar setup — well-lit grilling stations with an open flame fueled by propane tanks just a few yards from the street.

In North Las Vegas, officials say they are not currently enforcing regulations related to the vendors. Enforcement will wait until ordinances are in place.

Original News Source Link – KLAS

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