Evanston’s City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday night to ban licensed peddlers from the area around Northwestern’s athletic complex on game days.

The process leading up to the vote was prime example of how public issues should not be decided in Evanston.

The police chief had private meetings with university security officials to develop the plan. The city manager slipped the item onto the City Council agenda and asked the council to suspend the rules and give the ordinance immediate effect.

The rationale for the ban is that on some game days large crowds trying to get past peddlers on the sidewalk surge into the street, creating a traffic hazard.

At no time, it appears, did anyone on the city staff reach out to the small business people — the licensed peddlers — whose livelihood will be disrupted by this ordinance.

Each of these peddlers is required each year to submit his or her name and address to the city collector’s office and pay a license fee.


Evanston’s City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday night to ban licensed peddlers from the area around Northwestern’s athletic complex on game days.

The process leading up to the vote was prime example of how public issues should not be decided in Evanston.

The police chief had private meetings with university security officials to develop the plan. The city manager slipped the item onto the City Council agenda and asked the council to suspend the rules and give the ordinance immediate effect.

The rationale for the ban is that on some game days large crowds trying to get past peddlers on the sidewalk surge into the street, creating a traffic hazard.

At no time, it appears, did anyone on the city staff reach out to the small business people — the licensed peddlers — whose livelihood will be disrupted by this ordinance.

Each of these peddlers is required each year to submit his or her name and address to the city collector’s office and pay a license fee.

Therefore city officials can hardly claim they didn’t know how to reach the peddlers to ask for their input.

The haste to enact this ordinance is especially unseemly.

No testimony was presented that crowd control problems around the athletic complex are more severe this year than in the past. Yet the council was asked to pass the ordinance on an emergency basis in the middle of football season.

It’s not like this is a novel idea. The city has banned peddling near the high school stadium for decades. Why was there not time to seek the input of all affected parties?

Why was there no public discussion of the possibility of redesigning the space around the stadium to make room for peddlers to sell their wares without impeding pedestrian traffic?

Why was no consideration given to limiting the number of peddlers on game days rather than banning them entirely? Special game-day peddling licenses might be a source of incremental revenue for the city.

Fortunately, opposition from Aldermen Judy Fiske and Lionel Jean-Baptiste means the ordinance will not take immediate effect, and aldermen will have a chance to take another look at it in two weeks.

We know city officials are happy about the university’s recent gift of a fire truck to the city and that they hope it heralds a new era of good relations with Northwestern.

But that’s no reason to hop aboard the gift truck and drive it over the interests of people like the peddlers who are near the bottom of our economic ladder.

Related stories

City Council meeting recap

Administration and Public Works Committee meeting recap

Chief wants to nix game-day peddlers

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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9 Comments

  1. Peddlers
    Seems like a problem that could easily be solved rather than banning these enterprising small business people who are licensed by the city. Perhaps someone concerned about this problem could have asked the peddlers to have people keep an orderly line so that others could pass by?

    1. Missing the Real Issue
      Hmm, banning licensed vendors regarding the sales of merchandise. Those that lawfully elected to sell their wares at NU games, etc. Does not make sense to me. Are they thus going to ban the StreetWise vendors selling magazines?

      How about cracking down on the true peddlers – the folks that constantly ask the public for money. The bums, homeless, whatever… who park themselves infront of a store entrance (like Jewel on Chicago) and sit there and ask for change, everyday, every hour of the day. Annoying, unsighlty, a bit unnerving and frankly illegal.

      How about cracking down on that kind of peddling!?

      1. Word must be out on Evanston
        Yesterday morning, as I was leaving my building, a fellow stopped me, said he’d ‘just gotten into town,’ but the hotels are expensive, so could he stay at my place?

  2. Why does the city have to
    Why does the city have to once again squash small entrepreneurs and competition? I would bet dollars to pennies that there is some moneyed interest behind this ruling.

  3. I seriously doubt that the
    I seriously doubt that the peddlers in question are 1) making any kind of a living off of selling items at these games and 2) that they are Evanston residents.

    It doesn’t appear to me that there is anything fishy happening in this case. I imagine if there were an easier solution, the police department would have pursued it long ago.

  4. Ouch! That Hurt!
    Okay. Let me get this straight. Peddlers licensed by the City of Evanston are creating such havoc on game day that people are walking onto the street and getting hit/almost getting hit by cars.

    Funny, I’ve had season tickets for several years and not once has it occurred to me that people were walking in the street because of the peddlers. I thought it was because 30,000+ people are walking up/down Central on sidewalks that only hold three across.

    It bothers me that this “problem” was resolved by banning small, licensed businesses from selling t-shirts, foods, etc. on game day.

    Seems to me this “issue,” if it really is one, should have been discussed further and other solutions developed, if indeed this is the reason why thousands of fans are walking in the street.

    For instance, the university could take 5 parking spaces near the stadium and allow the peddlers to set up their stands on those spots.

    The City could close off a portion of the street thereby protecting the fans from these peddlers blocking the sidewalks. (Frankly, if it’s about the safety of the fans then the City/University should either widen the sidewalks or close off a street to allow 30,000+ fans to flow in and out).

    Personally I think we need to “paint this town purple” on game day and banning the vendors from around the stadium doesn’t help us create a sense of spirit and excitement around Northwestern Football.

    The only time this town seems like game day is when Michigan or Ohio or Wisconsin is in town. We need to be thinking how we generate more revenue for businesses within this City on game day and less about terminating their small business, which in this economic environment could be livelihood.

  5. Street peddling
    seems to me that the same people for this ordinance started off as street vendors themselves,but now want the monopoly on all sales at nu games.i will bet any amount of money that the storefront owners of nu merchandise on central avenue and the people running the souvineer concessions inside nu are not even residents of evanston,yet they want to pass this ordinance for there own personall gain!

  6. Who cares where they live?
    In reading the arguments for or against street peddlers, I see:

    “i will bet any amount of money that the storefront owners of nu merchandise on central avenue and the people running the souvineer concessions inside nu are not even residents of evanston” – Rick

    “Most peddlers don’t live in Evanston and don’t employ Evanstonians,” Gaborek said. “Peddlers only leave garbage behind in Evanston.”

    “I seriously doubt that the peddlers in question are 1) making any kind of a living off of selling items at these games and 2) that they are Evanston residents.”

    Who cares about where the peddlers or store owners live? This is one case where enquiring minds really don’t want to know.

    Both sides lose credibility when they resort to protectionist and isolationist arguments. If the issue is safety, or sales tax….let’s just stick to those issues. If peddlers are good, then they should be welcomed if they live in Chicago or Evanston or Waukegan . If they are harmful, I don’t care if they are locals or if their competition is local. Let’s just stick to relevant issues like safety and NPV.

    This is also a question at the statewide level. Should municipalities in Illinois be allowed to pass laws that restrict non-residents from engaging in otherwise legal commerce?

    I wonder what our candidates for state rep have to say about this…especially the Democrats, who claim to be ‘progressive’. Would it be acceptable for cities, or neighborhoods, to pass laws to prevent outsiders ( who often happen to be poor people, or people of the wrong ethnic background) from working in their cities? Should we ban the ice cream guys on their bicycles, because they live in Rogers Park and take business away from local ice cream shops?

    What do you say, Mr. Smith? Mr. Moran? Anybody?

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