Vendors showed us a document calling them to a meeting at city hall this week to find out they now have to enter a lottery for the corners where they set up shop. Some families have sold hot dogs and chips at the same corners for decades.
“I have a business here downtown Cleveland, and this is my life. If they take this away from me, I’m gonna lose everything,” said vendor George Tsambounieris.
Vendor Phillip Priester teared up talking about how his family has been in the business for generations.
“Built it up since ’92. My father…and they take it,” he said.
Vendors said new city rules just went into effect, so in order to get permits a lottery will determine who can set up where.
“What do you mean you’re taking my spot? They’re like, ‘What are you gonna do about it?'” Priester said.
“All my customers here, my customers, just like everybody else, they know this is where I stand,” Tsambounieris said.
A group of vendors turned to the I-Team hoping we could find out what’s behind this. We started looking into city documents outlining the new rules. We contracted the mayor’s office and Cleveland City Hall. By deadline for this story Wednesday afternoon, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s Office responded to us with complete silence.
Four councilmen told us they had not been informed why the new rules went into effect.
One city hall source told us the change in the process had been made so that the best spots downtown don’t stay controlled by the same people. But good luck selling that to the vendors who’ve made a hard living in those spots.
“I would like the city of Cleveland to keep the vendors the way they are for the last 40 years,” Tsambounieris said.
We’ll keep asking questions. But soon, no telling where you might find some of your favorite vendors.
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