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Becoming a vendor?

Becoming a vendor

I want to be a street vendor. What do I do?

Our organization envisions a New York City where street vendors, our City's smallest businesses, have access to the business licensing they need to become street vendors. However, the current system of vending has many barriers to becoming a street vendor. We recommend you stop by our office during drop in hours to discuss your interest and situation further. 

Yes, unless what you are selling is protected by the First Amendment (see below), to sell in public space, you need either a general vendor license to sell merchandise, or a mobile food vendor license and permit.  If you vend without business licenses, you run the risk of receiving a fine and your merchandise will be confiscated.

However, due to the outdated vending permitting system, you may not be able to get the business licensing you need to operate. For example, if you want to sell merchandise and you are not a US military veteran, there is no way to obtain a 'General Vendor License.' In 1979, City Council created a cap of 853 on the number of merchandise licenses. There is such a long waiting list that the Department of Consumer Affairs has not even taken new names for the list since 2006. We believe that the licensing cap should be lifted, but we need your help to make it happen. Join the project, make a tax-deductible donation, or at least find out who your Council Member is and write them a letter telling them that hard-working people who want to vend legally should be allowed to do so.

Food vendors need a license for themselves, on which there is no limit. They also need to sell from a pushcart with a Department of Health permit, which are limited at about 3,400 city-wide. The Department of Health holds lotteries every few years to distribute any excess permits, but the average wait is still more than a decade. Many food vendors who do not have their own permits enter into relationships with permit holders to use their permits, for a fee.

Do I need a license or permit? How do I get one?

What about First Amendment vendors?

Under the First Amendment, people who sell newspapers, magazines, cd’s, books and art on the street may do so without a vending license. However, you still must abide by the city’s many restrictions on where you put your table, and there are many streets where you cannot vend at all. You must also abide by the New York State tax law by getting a tax ID (“certificate of authority”) and by collecting and paying sales taxes on what you sell.

While traditional visual art (paintings, prints, photographs and sculpture) may definitely be sold on the street without a license, the law on other items is murky. Overtly political items like t-shirts and buttons may be sold without a license. For jewelry and crafts, though, it depends on the individual items you are selling and whether by selling them you have an intention to communicate any idea, opinion or belief. The city does not have a process for determining beforehand what is acceptable, so if you are unsure if your sales are protected by the First Amendment, the only way to find out is to attempt to vend while following all siting rule and regulations, and if issued a summons, argue to the judge that your items were protected by the First Amendment. 

I want to sell jewelry / custom t-shirts / crafts. May I do so without a license?

Already a vendor?

Where can I vend?

If you are a vendor with a license and/or permit, and are abiding the restrictions on the placement of your pushcart or table (our Vendor Power! guide has most of these, in visual format), you may vend on any street that has not been restricted by the city. There are different lists of restricted streets for merchandise vendorsfood vendors and First Amendment vendors.

No, the Street Vendor Project is not associated with Street Fairs in NYC.

I want to work at a street fair. Can you help me?

Already a vendor

Where can I get a copy of the vending laws?

You may get a copy of the vending laws at the NYC Licensing Center at 42 Broadway.

Looking for vendors?

Unfortunately, due to our small organizational size, we do not have the capacity to assist people with personal projects. While we appreciate your interest in writing about street vendors, we are unable to respond to inquiries for projects that are oriented towards and academic audience or for academic work. If you want to stay updated with SVP's work, ways to be involved, and how to support grassroots organizing, sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of the page!

I am a student writing a paper about vendors.
Can you help me?

Looking for vendors?

I am looking for a vendor to work my event.
Can you help me?

Yes, we frequently link up our network of over 2,900 both food and merchandise vendors with people for events including staff lunches, block parties, promotional events, etc. This is a great opportunity for our community to support local street vendors, and for our vendor members to introduce their products to a new audience. Please fill out our 'Hire a Vendor' form at least two weeks in advance of your event, and we'll connect you to a vendor from our network!

I am a student writing a paper about vendors. Can you connect me to a vendor?

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