Vendors squeezed out of publicly funded Little Caesars Arena area, lawsuit says

Sep 6, 2019 at 10:49 am
click to enlarge Vendors squeezed out of publicly funded Little Caesars Arena area, lawsuit says
Steve Neavling

The Ilitch family has created a virtual monopoly around its Little Caesars Arena after taxpayers forked over nearly $400 million — gobbling up large apartment buildings and leaving them abandoned; covering prime real estate in parking lots that violate city ordinances; using contractors who don’t hire the required number of Detroiters; and failing to deliver on promises to develop the area between downtown and Midtown.

Now, according to a federal lawsuit, city officials have denied permits to longtime vendors who had made extra money selling hot dogs, peanuts, bottled water and sports-themed trinkets. The vendors sued the city Wednesday, saying they were denied license renewals “without a legally justifiable reason,” The Detroit News first reported.

They argue the city violated their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection by making “false excuses” to deny the licenses.

"It stinks to high heaven," Ryan Williams, one of the vendors who filed the suit, told the News. "They just cut everybody off. It's almost like they just swept us under the rug." 

Detroit Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia denies the allegations, saying city code bars vendors from setting up shop there.

"Detroit's Code prohibits stationary vendors from operating with 300 feet of a sports arena,” Garcia says in a statement to Metro Times. “Before the new arena was built, some vendors may have enjoyed licenses to peddle wares on Woodward north of the freeway. However, since the LCA became a sports arena, BSEED has been unable to provide or renew licenses for vendors wishing to make sales in that area."

Co-plaintiff Cheryl Robinson, who sold sports-themed trinkets for at least a decade near Fisher and Woodward, said the license she received in 2017 was later revoked.

"You'd think they could find a spot or make room," she said. "I guess when the big dogs come in, you just get squashed."

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