Rules for rose sellers approved

Rules for rose sellers approved
City to require $7 fee, weeklong training
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

BY KYLE STOCK

Children who sell palmetto fronds twisted into the shape of roses on Charleston streets would have to attend a one-week training seminar and buy a $7 permit under an ordinance approved by City Council on Tuesday.

The measure also would preclude panhandling without a license and forbid street vendors from operating in the most crowded sections of the peninsula.

Mayor Joe Riley said complaints about the young vendors, typically poor black children, trespassing and harassing tourists presented "an interesting challenge and a wonderful opportunity." City economic development officials spent about a year drafting the rules, which received preliminary approval.

"We’ve discovered how to make this a very positive, beneficial experience for the kids," Riley said. "They’re clever. They’ve got moxie, and we all grew up with people like that who are very successful."

The ordinance requires that rose peddlers attend a weeklong class administered by YEScarolina, a nonprofit started to teach business skills to young people. The sessions cost $15 and are open to 20 youths between ages 9 and 16 at a time. Would-be rose peddlers also will have to buy a $7 permit to sell wares on the streets and might be required to buy a business license, depending on how much they expect to sell.

The regulation forbids the young entrepreneurs from selling their wares before 8 a.m., during school hours and after 8 p.m. It also would require palm-frond crafters to stay in constant motion when selling the flowers. Although the ordinance approved Tuesday calls for a criminal records check for would-be vendors, city attorneys pledged to strike that languagebefore City Council considers the measure for final approval.

Critics of the rose-peddling regulation said the added level of bureaucracy would dissuade some of the city’s most at-risk youth from pursuing an honest dollar. Robert David Ross, a 56-year-old downtown resident, said that he encourages the craft and teaches young salesmen how to harvest palm fronds in his yard without hurting the trees. Ross said he thinks the rules approved Tuesday were heavy-handed.

"What they’re saying is these kids are criminals," he said. "I never heard them say that when the little white kids got their lemonade stands."

The city has a long history of efforts to control similar types of commerce. In the 1930s and ’40s, Charleston tried to banish flower vendors from the post office on Broad Street, the same spot where basket makers do business now. After a public outcry, officials eventually painted a line that the flower vendors were not permitted to cross in pursuit of customers.

City officials, downtown residents and peninsula businesses, however, have said the peddlers often litter sidewalks with palm fronds, trespass and threaten potential customers.

Elizabeth Beaudry, a Summerville resident who grew up on James Island, spoke in favor of the regulations.

"I tried to get into M. Dumas and I had about 10 of them all over me like leeches trying to get me to buy something," Beaudry recounted. "I think, if I was a tourist, what would I think about this city?"

Councilman Wendell Gilliard cast the sole vote against the proposal. Gilliard said the city should not regulate the commerce but rather encourage the private sector and nonprofit groups to mentor the kids.

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