Some on Bradenton City Council want vendor policy for Riverwalk

jdeleon@bradenton.comMarch 20, 2013 

BRADENTON -- City Council members on Wednesday expressed a desire to move forward with allowing food and drink vendors on the Riverwalk.

During a work session Wednesday morning, council members questioned the status of any regulations and the hold-up on a decision.

"We need something sooner rather than later," Councilman Gene Brown said.

How to regulate vendors in the park has been a source of conflict recently, with the city yet to take a stance. Recently, police ordered a woman who was giving away hot dogs near the skate park on the Riverwalk to stop.

The fear of taking away business that the Riverwalk is bringing to nearby businesses has been a factor.

One local business, Yacht Sea Grill, 101 Riverfront Drive, just yards from the Riverwalk, opposes vendors in the park.

"I will protest the hell out of it," Yacht Sea Grill owner Kurt Petty said.

According to Petty, sales have increased about 7 percent thanks to the traffic on the Riverwalk.

"The reason I opened up my restaurant here was because there was no vendor agreement on the Riverwalk," Petty said. "Its going to take away from folks coming in for lunch."

Many skateboarders and other park-goers have started popping into the restaurant just because they want a soda. Petty says they sell about $35 worth of soda a week to park-goers.

Some on the council said they don't think allowing vendors on the Riverwalk will hurt local businesses.

"A vendor in our little area selling Cokes, water and ice cream is not going to take away from those businesses," Brown said.

Additionally Councilman Bemis Smith feels the city should be involved somehow in putting a vendor on the Riverwalk to contribute to the maintaince of the park.

"The $150,000 that we have set outside DDA (Downtown Development Authority) for the wear and tear is not going to be enough," Smith cautioned his fellow councilmen.

Some members of the council were under the impression vendors were part of the plan for the Riverwalk.

"We said for years when the park was in the making that we knew vendors would be in there," Councilman Patrick Roff said,

Executive Director David Gustafson said the DDA is ready to move forward with helping the council bring vendors to the Riverwalk.

"The more opportunities to take care of our patrons out on the Riverwalk the better," Gustafson said. "As long as it is to the level of professionalism and quality that exists out on the Riverwalk currently."

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