Vending in Venice

Dear Beachhead,

I have just recently moved back to Florida after being a vendor on the Boardwalk for two years. I have listened to all the bickering between vendors, and between vendors and the Lottery Officials. Years ago Abbot Kinney wanted the Boardwalk area to be a place for artists and musicians. If he could only see what has happened to it.

I agree that there should be a lottery, otherwise chaos would ensue. But, what has happened is, it has become a swap meet. There is a place for everything in Venice. But too many genuine artists are being pushed out by junk.

Every third table has the same jewelry or Rasta type items. There are bugs in plastic, alligator heads, wind up toys, and more. All mass produced and bought downtown for pennies. How can the artists compete with that? Why should we give up what we were born to do, so that someone can sell alligator heads? I see nothing artistic about lopping off an alligator head. And I am sure the alligator didn’t either.

I understand times are tough and that those vendors have a right to earn a living. But, the Venice Boardwalk is for free speech. Artists, poets, musicians, photographers,handmade items. The artists have put their heart and soul into their creations. They did not go downtown and purchase items with “Made in China” on the bottom. The artists did not go to the Mall to buy their talent. It is something they were born with. And Venice needs to get back to that.

My idea is to get the real artists out there. And by “real” I mean, not the vendors who are buying art wholesale, and reselling it on the Boardwalk. Yes, there are people doing that out there. And they too, are taking away from the real artists.

In January everyone will have to renew their vendors permits. There is enough time to try this idea out. If you want to be in the “I” Zone ( the artists zone) you should have to show that you do what you do. At that point once you demonstrate, you receive your permit. Everyone else will have to go to the “P” Zone.

All psychics, tarot card and the like are performers. They need to stop taking up space in the artists zone.

On Labor Day weekend, before I left I counted only nine artists in two hundred spaces. I too did not have a space for the last big weekend. But plenty of swap meet, mass merchandise sellers did though.

Lottery officials and the city need to take a stand on this. Otherwise very soon it will just look like a giant garage sale out there. As it is, I have seen people bringing clothes and items from home and selling them out there. Another problem is how many permits does a family get? I have seen people at lottery with a half a dozen family members, all with permits. They don’t sell out there, only one of them does. That is not fair to everyone else. Sometimes all of them get lucky and get a lottery draw. Then the next problem comes from selling spaces. This can be very lucrative in itself. There are “vendors” who have never sold a thing on the boardwalk. All they do is say they are an artist or whatever to get a permit, and their sole intent is to sell the spot that day. I have seen it at lottery many times. The demonstration part of getting your permit in the artist zone would get rid of that. Now one other problem with an easy fix. There are many vendors on the boardwalk who have not gotten their Sellers Tax ID number from the State. And they are out there every day selling. The easy solution to this would be, when you go to Lottery on Tuesdays, if your name is drawn as you go up front to pick out your spot, you must present your sellers ID. If you don’t have one with you, you will not get a spot. It’s that simple.

All it comes down to is use it for what it was intended..Art, music, photography, handmade goods. Not all the mass produced crap. Prove you are an artist to get a spot in the “I” Zone. And since there seems to be so many of these swap meet vendors, they need to go to “P” zone.. And then divide the spaces in half. That will give them two hundred spaces to fight over and the artists can have the spaces they are supposed to have. The artists will have a hundred spaces, and all the artists will get a spot out there without the mass produced stuff taking up an artist’s spot.

My time in Venice was very educational. I got to see how people react when pushed. Let the “I” zone be for the artists only..Prove you do it, have a sellers tax ID number, and get your spot. There are less than one hundred true artists out there. Assign them their own spot, and that will be theirs for the year. Remember these are the people that can prove what they do.

The lottery will have to figure out how to deal with the “P” Zone. Too much of the identical items. I liked the idea of a message. But, that was not enforced. I see many in the P zone who do not go by the rules. It is supposed to be donation based. Not set prices. How they will fit hundreds of vendors into the “P” Zone, I don’t know. Check on sellers IDs. But what I do know is, they need to keep the junk out of the artist’s zone. No bugs encased in plastic next to a beautiful oil painting.

Thank you,  Vicki Zinn (Ashworth)

Categories: Letters