Friday, August 04, 2000

Vendor ban more than Bengals asked

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        They got ordinances prohibiting ticket scalpers and street vendors along virtually the entire riverfront, but Bengals officials said Thursday that's not what they wanted.

        “The club's focus was specific to Paul Brown Stadium,” said Jeff Berding, director of sales and public affairs. “We asked for similar protection to what we had at Cinergy Field.”

        What's more, he said the team asked for an updated ordinance nine months ago and can't explain why nothing happened until Wednesday night, three weeks before the Bengals' Aug. 19 home opener.

        Cincinnati City Council voted Wednesday on four emergency ordinances that create a no-trade zone south of Third Street from Gest Street to Broadway.

        Council said this was done at the request of the Bengals.

        Vendors and ticket scalpers will be allowed behind the stadium on the south side of Mehring Way, but they say that doesn't do them a whole lot of good.

        “It's a big joke,” said Linda Norwell, a ticket scalper licensed by the city. “There's nothing down there. What's down there? What's that going to do if you're in the back of the place?”

        She said her business is a lot like real estate: It's about “location, location, location.”

        To make matters even more untenable for vendors, the ordinance isn't restricted to the opening of the new Paul Brown Stadium or just Bengals games. It applies indefinitely to the area described as the Central Riverfront Construction Zone, which includes the existing Cinergy Field and Firstar Center.

        “We never said we wanted from Gest to Broadway,” Mr. Berding said. Those boundaries were set by city officials, he said, ostensibly for safety reasons because construction has limited the number of streets and walkways in the area.

        “This is the first time I've heard of safety issues,” said Ms. Norwell, who has a lawsuit against the city over her arrests for selling tickets in the early '90s after being issued a city license.

        If there is such a safety concern, she wants to know why the stadium is being allowed to open.

        “I'm not going there with you,” said Carol Walker, a senior administrative specialist for the safety director. “I don't want to comment on that.”

        Ms. Walker, who attended meetings with other city staffers from the law department, economic develop ment and the police administration, said they held off the ordinances as long as possible to determine how much construction would get done.

        She said officials toured the area around the new stadium several times in the last months looking at places where vendors might be allowed to set up.

        “If this is about safety, then why hasn't the city closed off the Reds games,” Ms. Norwell said, adding that construction has been going on in the riverfront area for nearly two years. “This ordinance is designed to put small businesses out of business.”

        That's what West End activist Tyrone Smith said Wednesday, when the ordinances were brought up during the City Council meeting.

        He said vendors — who pay $300 for city licenses — are being forced out under the guise of construction concerns.

        Police Chief Thomas Streicher said Wednesday he views the ordinances as temporary while construction continues.

        While there is nothing in the ordinance about time limits, the City Council said Wednesday it intends to revisit the issue at its next meeting in September.

        Meanwhile, Chief Streicher said a team of officers is preparing to meet with vendors before game day.

        But vendors want to know why the city never held any meetings with them before the ordinance was enacted.

        “There wasn't input from anyone,” Ms. Norwell said. “This was a total surprise and affects everyone with a license.”


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