By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — City Council wants to boost the number of flea markets throughout Philadelphia, and at the same time, the lawmakers want to impose some good old-fashioned red tape.

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City Council president Darrell Clarke calls them entrepreneurs,  those folks who set up a folding table on a sidewalk to sell everything from handbags to CDs to incense.

“People tend to show up, throw a table out, sell all sorts of things,” Clarke says.  “What we want to do is formalize the entrepreneurs in the city of Philadelphia across the board.”

(File photo: Philadelphia City Council president Darrell Clarke speaks to reporters in City Hall.  Photo by Mike Dunn)

(File photo: Philadelphia City Council president Darrell Clarke speaks to reporters in City Hall. Photo by Mike Dunn)


Clarke has introduced a measure with two goals:  first, to increase the number of such vendors so that they grow into regular flea markets.

“When you create a critical mass of retail, you have more people coming to the place, as opposed to one person on a corner with a table,” Clarke tells KYW Newsradio.

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But at the same time, Clarke wants oversight of the vendors by the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections.

“What we want to do is formalize that process in designated commercial corridors.   During the course of a week, we would like to formalize the opportunity for people to come and sell whatever wares as determined by L&I,” Clarke said.

Under Clarke’s bill, all street vendors and flea market entrepreneurs would have to register with L&I and present their commercial activity license.  The location of the table, and types of products being sold, would have to be approved by L&I.

The vendors would be prohibited from using public address systems to hawk their wares, and they’d be required to clean up when they’re done.

Clarke admits that some of the vendors prefer to work “under the radar,” particularly to avoid paying taxes.  But he says that is unfair to retailers in brick-and-mortar shops who do pay taxes.

“You have people making a living, but they’re not paying taxes.  They don’t have the ability to have a pension and all the other things associated with a traditional workforce,” Clarke says.  “They can actually be formalized, they can actually pay taxes, they can be regulated.  And I think this will, in the long run, create a better environment not only for those people but for those who operate on the commercial corridors.”

The measure will be debated in committee.

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