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Some 16th Street Mall Vendors Feel Like They’re Getting Squeezed Out

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A hot dog stand on the 16th Street Mall (credit: CBS)

A hot dog stand on the 16th Street Mall (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – A plan to improve the 16th Street Mall in Denver has some vendors complaining. The city enlisted the Downtown Denver Partnership to maximize the economic value of the popular mall.

Several long-time vendors contacted 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks. The vendors feel like they’re being squeezed out.

The Denver Downtown Partnership says it wants to maximize the mall experience for customers, but the vendors say their businesses are too small to weather those kinds of changes.

Lyubov Lerman is making a living one hot dog at a time. She and her husband have worked their cart on the 16th Street Mall for 17 years. Now she says she has to move.

“They tell me I can’t be here just because I’m not making enough revenue, but I have the cheapest prices,” Lerman said.

The price of her prime real estate just went up.

“When the economy is that bad, who raises the rent by 33 percent?” she said.

Rent has gone up for many of the vendors. The Denver Downtown Partnership is implementing a tiered pricing system based on location. That makes blocks like Lerman’s more expensive.

“There are other blocks on the mall where we have more flexibility,” John Desmond with Downtown Denver Partnership said.

“I would say if I have to be someplace else I’d have to close my business,” Lerman said.

The goal is to keep the mall as active as possible throughout the day. The Downtown Partnership is mandating all carts stay in place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Providing predictability and choices for the consumer,” Desmond said.

Several of the food vendors say consumers don’t choose them after a certain hour.

“After 3:30 p.m., 4 p.m., I just end up kind of sitting around,” Taste of Philippines vendor Kathy Gietl said.

“They just won’t be profitable, the hours I’ve wanted to be here. I’ve tried them,” Asada Rico vendor Manuel Breackenridge said.

“What they’re trying to do is to squish us as much as they can,” necklace vendor Hector Vargas said.

“We want to make sure that there’s an opportunity for our vendors to make more money,” Desmond said.

Gigi’s Cupcakes does booming business on the mall and owner Carrie Bach welcomes the changes.

“I think that by having these standards on the venders here allows for better quality vendors,” Bach said.

Vendors that may soon not include Lerman.

“And now they’re moving me? How am I going to survive?” she said.

Some of the vendors are considering filing lawsuits.

One other benefit to the program is that it now allows for seasonal contracts so vendors don’t have to pay a full year’s lease.

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