Hialeah City Council Passes New Regulations on Street Vendors

Mayor Carlos Hernandez said the rules are necessary to keep vendors and their customers safe

The Hialeah City Council voted Tuesday night to approve new regulations that will affect the way street vendors do business.

At the council’s meeting Tuesday, picture after picture was shown of vendors allegedly behaving badly – putting their lives in danger as they peddled in the middle of busy roads as they blocked stop signs with their trucks.

The city said it’s implementing the new rules to keep vendors and their customers safe.

"We're doing this to make sure that they don't put themselves at risk, or put anybody at risk,” Mayor Carlos Hernandez said.

Among the new regulations are restrictions to where street vendors can sell their goods. They can no longer be within 300 feet of a highway overpass, or set up under one.

Indiana Baez says that may further impact her livelihood.

"We do it to live every day, to bring foods to our families," she told the city council in Spanish.

Outside, Mauricio Martinez, who has sold churros for 20 years, said making a few pennies out in the hot sun was a daily hassle due to constant police enforcement.

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In 2011, a group of vendors and the nonprofit Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit due to ordinances within Hialeah’s vendor law that it called unconstitutional. The suit claimed that the city had violated vendors’ rights by enacting an ordinance that required a minimum separation of 300 feet from brick and mortar stores that sell the same or similar merchandise.

That ordinance was done away with on Tuesday night, something vendors considered a success.

The lawsuit further asked that Hialeah amend an ordinance that essentially says vendor have to move around when conducting business. But city officials left that in place.

"A moving vendor, a transient vendor, is somebody who moves. You cannot just park somewhere and bring all your goods and put them there, then what you have is a flea market,” Hernandez said. “So are we going to have a flea market all over the city?”

Vendors and their customers said the existing ordinance does nothing to move business.

In addition, a lawyer for Institute for Justice, Claudia Murray, said the language in the ordinance was so vague that street vendors would have trouble adhering to it.

"There's nothing in the law that says how far vendors have to move, and there's no specifics,” she said. “It’s very vague."

Many Spanish-speaking vendors, left unsure of what the regulations will really mean for them out on the streets – regulations that will become the law as soon as Mayor Hernandez puts ink to paper.

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