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"Location, Location, Location"

The steet vending issue is back.

Street vendors, who already battled the city to get spots in front of Nationals Park, are now upset with the location that city officials have carved out for them -- six blocks away from the new stadium.

"It just infuriates those that are receiving the permission," said Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) at a council breakfast before this morning's legislative meeting began. "They're not sent six blocks away where there's a trickle of customers."

Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) said, "It's location, location, location."

At the breakfast, council members had a lively discussion about whether to support legislation, sponsored by Council member Marion Barry, that would put them closer and even name the vendors that would be in the spots.

While most members said they were wary of naming permanent vendors for the spots, they were supportive of the spirit behind Barry's bill.

Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) has been grappling with the vendors for months now and was instrumental in getting city agencies to find spots for them. She said she brought together representatives of the police, fire, transportation and consumer and regulatory affairs departments to explain the situation to her, Barry, Graham and Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6).

City officials say putting vendors closer to the stadium poses safety concerns since there is

currently construction around Nationals Park. In an interview, she said she would like to defer to the agencies and then push them to put the vendors near the stadium after the construction ends.

Wells gave the same explanation. "Are we comfortable superseding these issues?" he asked his colleagues.

Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) used an expletive to respond to that explanation. Twice. Once with the word "horse" in front.

He said city agencies have always been opposed to street vendors.

Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said he was not speaking for either side but he offered some historical perspective. When the city was initially negotiating with the Major Baseball League years ago, the league was concerned, he said, about street vendors with cheaper products competing with vendors that leased space inside the stadium.

"I have three kids. Frankly, I buy the cheap hat from the cheap vendor," he said.

Unfortunately, there's no "knock-off Build-A-Bear," he said, joking and referring to the store inside the new stadium that can get pricey when adding all of the outfits that the bear must wear.

By Nikita R Stewart  |  July 1, 2008; 10:48 AM ET
Categories:  Nationals  
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