D.C. Passes New Street Vending Rules

The District’s new regulations lower permit fees, reduce barriers to entry for vendors, and decriminalize vending offenses.

1 minute read

August 24, 2023, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Close-up of rows of clear plastic cups filled with cut fruit on outdoor street vendor table

Mary Salen / Adobe Stock

Writing in Next City, Oscar Perry Abello asserts that “Street vending is supposed to be the informal version of commerce. In this country, lawmakers and law enforcement have made attempts to codify street vending, and usually it gets pretty ugly, pretty quickly.”

But Abello goes on to express optimism that Washington, D.C.’s new street vending regulations could strike the right balance of regulatory oversight and the practical considerations of street vendors.

The District’s street vendor licensing and permitting fees are now dramatically lower, as are fines for violations. Criminal background checks are no longer permitted as part of the street vending application process, meaning unpaid parking tickets or previous incarceration are no longer barriers to obtaining D.C. street vendor licenses or permits. Street vending violations are no longer a criminal offense, and no longer enforced by the police department.

For organizers in D.C., the victory hinged on narrative change, Abello writes. Advocates worked to change the public perception of street vending and highlight the vulnerability of vendors. The new law creates a framework for integrating vendors into the streetscape and creating “a commons-like relationship with street vendors.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2023 in Next City

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