D.C. street vending without a license would be decriminalized with new law


The D.C. Council approved a street vending reform bill, the Street Vendor Advancement Amendment Act of 2023, in the first reading Tuesday. 

The bill would decriminalize vending without a license, make licenses cheaper and waive past unpaid licensing fees.

Unpaid fines from up to five years before the effective date of the law would be eligible for forgiveness; vendors would be able to apply to waive the fees for a year after the law is established.

Vendor operation hours would expand. On Sunday through Thursday, vendors would be allowed to operate from 5 a.m. to midnight, two more hours than in the current law. Yet the residential-area ban would remain after 10 p.m.

Given the drop in fees and the need to pay zone managers and more food inspectors, the bill is expected to cost $764,000 in fiscal 2023 if it passes and $2.4 million over four years.

With the bill passing the first reading, it will now have to pass a second D.C. Council vote and be approved by Mayor Muriel Bowser before officially becoming law. All council members voted yes on the bill, with the exception of at-large independent member Christine Henderson, who voted present. 

“There is a philosophy underlying these licensing changes: We are changing street vending from something just tolerated — and sometimes barely tolerated — to recognizing it as a fundamental part of our economy, a pathway to economic empowerment for residents and, indeed, an economic development engine itself,” said bill co-sponsor Brianne Nadeau, a Democratic council member.

Ana Lemus, whose daughter was pushed to the ground by police in a 2019 confrontation over vending in Columbia Heights, applauded the advancement of the legislation.

“This change in the law is, for me, to obtain justice for what happened. And for many of the wounded hearts in DC who the police do not allow to sell, and confiscate their goods. For me, this is a big triumph and I thank God,” Ms. Lemus told DCist.


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