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LA City Officials Vote to Stop Citing Unlicensed Street Vendors — For Now

The City Council vote re-establishes a moratorium on citations for vendors that lack permits, at least until the formal end of the pandemic

Salvadoran street market in front of Koreatown’s Two Guys Plaza with stalls and cooked foods.
Salvadoran street vendors at Koreatown’s Two Guys Plaza
Bill Esparza

The Los Angeles City Council voted on Tuesday, June 29 to extend the moratorium on issuing citations for street vendors who lack permits or licenses until the end of the citywide COVID-19 state of emergency — and for another six months beyond that. The move, pushed by two prominent councilmembers, could have sweeping and long-term ramifications for LA’s robust street food scene.

On Tuesday, the council also voted to have the city’s Bureau of Street Services conduct education and outreach to encourage more street vendors to obtain valid permits, according to ABC-7. The vote is a win for thousands of LA street vendors who have been bravely serving throughout the pandemic, despite direct threats of enforcement. Councilwoman Nithya Raman, who openly endorsed street vending as a means of economic opportunity for immigrants, and councilman Curren Price, introduced the motion to extend the moratorium.

The vote comes after Mayor Eric Garcetti and the council agreed to keep the city’s al fresco restaurant dining areas available for at least another 12 months, and potentially for two years beyond that. In all, the extension of more outdoor dining, from street vending to al fresco, means LA diners will have even more options to eat in safer open-air environments with increased airflow during the ongoing pandemic and for months, if not years, beyond. Relatedly, this week county officials made a strong recommendation for people indoors to wear masks as a means of limiting infections with the highly transmissible COVID-19 delta variant infiltrating the state.

Before yesterday’s vote, street vendors were continually at risk of losing their inventory and equipment from the health department and police raids. After street vending was legalized statewide in 2019, the City of Los Angeles established a little-used program to issue permits, with fewer than one percent of vendors actually obtaining them. The city effectively banned street vending in March 2020 as part of citywide lockdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19, though many vendors were unable to receive vital government funding that other businesses were eligible for. In September 2020 (and later in April 2021), Garcetti approved funds to support street vendors who were previously ineligible for government relief.

The vote to re-establish the moratorium for non-permitted citations comes amid a boom in street food in recent months, such as the TikTok-fueled Ave 26 Market in Lincoln Heights, which has been drawing thousands of visitors every weekend.

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