Town considers fees for event vendors

BLYTHEWOOD – The Town of Blythewood does not currently charge fees for vendors who participate in town-sponsored events such as the annual July 3 Rockin’ Red White & Blue fireworks celebration. But that’s about to change if council passes an ordinance it is framing for temporary vendor fees.

While the discussions are in the initial stages, Steve Hasterok, Director of Events at Doko Mannor and Doko Park, suggested council should be looking ahead.

Mayor J. Michael Ross told council members Monday evening that they are leaving money on the table by not charging vendor fees.

“While the July 3 event is our signature event, the park keeps growing and there’ll probably be more opportunities to have vendors in the park,” Hasterok told council. He outlined three major areas he said council needs to look at.

  1. How much to charge food, drink, arts and crafts and other categories of vendors such as churches, non-profits and military organizations?
  2. What priority criteria should be used to deter mine what vendors and what type of vendors would be allowed to participant in town events?
  3. How to prioritize vendors who sell the same products, such as beer or hotdogs?

Hasterok also suggested council should decide whether to charge flat fees or percentage of sales.

“Charging a flat fee can be unfair if they are all charged the same fee. A beer vendor might sell $7,000 in beer while an arts and crafts vender might bring in $1,000,” Hasterok said. “But percentages are hard to track. You basically have to be on an honor system. A flat fee is easier.”

Hasterok suggested possibly charging large vendors one price ($150), small specialty vendors another price ($100) and 501(c)3’s and mom and pops selling brownies, another price ($75).

“I agree that we should cut a break for folks like small mom and pops and charities,” Councilman Malcolm Gordge said. “We could start off with the market rate and see how that goes.”

“Most vendors expect to be paying a fee, but we don’t want to knock out the small vendors,” Hasterok said.

“I think we’ve been missing an opportunity for years,” Ross said. “If we had charged $100 per vendor for the July 3 event, we would have made $2,100. That offsets the cost of those fireworks or we could have bought more fireworks,” Ross said. “I don’t think any vendor would mind having the opportunity to be able to sell to 4,000 – 5,000 people and to get the kind of money I believe they generate. And maybe we could discount further for smaller vendors or charities.”

Hasterok said it’s also important to be sensitive to duplication of products sold by vendors.

“We don’t want too many vendors selling the same thing,” he said. He also asked council if they wanted to give priority to in-town vendors who have brick and mortar business over outside vendors.

“Are we going to grant exclusivity to certain vendors?” Hasterok asked. “There are other businesses here in town besides McNulty’s Taproom that may want to sell beer. We need to have a plan.”

But Hasterok said 21 is just about the limit for the space in the park.

“I know you can’t put anymore vendors in there,” Councilman Eddie Baughman said, “but the lines are really long, and we don’t want people waiting 45 minutes to get something to eat.”

“We’re getting lots more vendors who want to sell at our park events,” Hasterok said. “They search the web for events and call us, and we really need a policy on what we’re going to do.”

“Can we, within our rights, give preference to brick and mortar businesses in Blythewood for vendor space?” Ross asked Town Attorney Jim Meggs.

“I don’t know,” Meggs said. “Local preferences can be problematic.”

“We have a few months to work on this,” Ross said. “But I think we’ve let money get away from us that we could have gotten that is very fair. A hundred dollars is not going to scare anyone off. But there are some other things we need to have Mr. Meggs to check on.”