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New Orleans City Hall Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. ORG XMIT: BAT1911021255210215

New Orleans has vowed to crack down on unpermitted vendors in 2022. As the City Council has pointed out, the number of businesses operating in NOLA without permits or remitting sales tax is a problem. It’s not fair to the city, which misses out on needed tax revenue, nor to legitimate businesses who pay their taxes and have permits.

However, the City Council is overlooking the key issue: The City of New Orleans makes it nearly impossible to obtain the proper business permits.

In the experience of many pop-up operators, the rules have been arbitrary, the process convoluted, officials unresponsive, and the processes time-consuming and expensive. We are asking the city to fix this problem by creating a more cohesive process, so permits aren’t unobtainable, before justifying enforcement.

We are confident that with better governance, more people will operate legitimately. Today, it is all but impossible for them to obtain a permit to operate outside businesses, at second lines, or at neighborhood markets. According to a study by the New Orleans Food Policy Initiative a “pop-up” needs five licenses from three offices totaling between $500-$1,000 — which is valid for at most 10 days. Applications can take months because you visit City Hall’s OneStop so many times, and applying online doesn’t work. Additionally, most applications are rejected because the permit is so niche.

Improving this process is a win for everyone. The city will receive substantially more revenue from sales tax than fines will ever generate. Businesses will be less intimidated by the process and grow because they’re legitimate.

Pop-ups weave seamlessly into the fabric that makes New Orleans unique. Communities have already shown their support for these local businesses with their patronage.

As a city, we must first focus our attention on improving the permit processes and adding permits that improve the city and its culture. Once that’s complete, we can discuss enforcement.

TOPHER PATCH

vendor

New Orleans