Thousands of Washington's sidewalk vendors may be forced to pay substantial fees to the District in a new effort by city officials to collect as much as $6 million a year from vendors who now pay only about $160,000 a year in sales taxes.
In addition to proposed rental fees that would range from $250 for a small sidewalk spot to $1,500 for space for a vending truck, the city's proposal would define where vendors could set up stalls, and would double the amount of sidewalk space between vendors from 10 feet to 20 in most locations.
Henry McCoy, a staff member of the Office of Business and Economic Development, said yesterday the regulations are aimed at bringing the city's mushrooming vendor business under control.
McCoy said only about 3,000 of the city's estimated 5,000-plus street vendors are registered and that many vendors don't pay sales taxes and sell food and other items that are not inspected first by city officials.
McCoy said a public hearing will be held Feb. 8 at the District Building to discuss the proposed fee schedule.
The proposal was developed by a 30-member group that included downtown businessmen, city officials, police and vendors.
McCoy said that under the plan, the city would stop collecting sales taxes from vendors, instead charging them annual fees for specific sidewalk stands.
He said the study group set the proposed fees after many vendors declined to tell the city how much money they earn.
"The vendors haven't been willing to come forward with any hard income figures for themselves, and our Department of Finance and Revenue hasn't been able to do that for us either," McCoy said. He added that the fees would help to offset costs in regulating and inspecting the sidewalk stalls.