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Atlanta vendors win case against city over licensing agreements

Souvenir and snack vendors in Atlanta recently won a dispute against the city, which was trying to put vendor management into the hands of only one company. City Hall informed independent vendors in December that they would need to obtain licensing agreements with General Growth Properties as of 2013 in order to remain in operation. The Fulton County Superior Court overruled the city on this matter in late December, but vendors are still unable to get permits to operate in 2013.

Atlanta City Hall made a contract with General Growth Properties in 2009 in an attempt to regulate vendor operations by establishing hours of operation and approved wares. Prior to that, many of the vendor sites were considered to be public eyesores. Before the dispute, General Growth Properties owned approximately two dozen vendor kiosks around Atlanta. About 30 other sites were operated independently. These were the sites that the city was attempting to bring under the General Growth Properties umbrella.

Vendors sued to nullify the contract because it would require them to rent kiosks from General Growth Properties for monthly fees ranging from $500-$1,500. The judge ruled that the city's contract with this company violates the city charter by giving the General Growth Properties monopoly over the vendors. The city can appeal the ruling by Jan. 22.

It remains to be seen how the licensing agreements will be handled. Atlanta officials are working to come up with a replacement regulation program that will allow the vendors to go back into business, but any plan will need approval by City Council before it is implemented. As this case demonstrates, any small business owners who feel that they are being treated unfairly may fight for their rights. Successfully litigating a dispute may allow small business owners to keep some control over how they operate their businesses.

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Ruling throws Atlanta vending plans into confusion," Jeremiah McWilliams, Jan. 3, 2013

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