You Don’t Have to Go Home, But You Can’t Stay Here
The City of Saint Louis is removing the pretzel vendors along Jamieson Avenue in south St. Louis due to complaints of traffic congestion. John Payne blogged about this yesterday, and cited this as an example of the government shutting down a successful entrepreneur.
I have a different perspective on the story. Although the city is cracking down on selling pretzels at that particular intersection, it is not banning the sale of pretzels in any other location. According to a recent story by Fox 2 on the subject, the city will take a laissez faire approach in the future:
“We’re not out looking for them, we didn’t put it on our hot list, I don’t have an inspector driving by every day. Our inspectors have plenty to do,” [Streets Director Todd Waelterman] explains. “You know if someone comes out here starts selling again and we receive a complaint, we’ll be back. If we don’t receive a complaint, we’re not planning on coming back.”
In this situation, the policy of looking the other way has many positive consequences. South City doesn’t become a generic, pretzel-less area; it can retain a feature that’s specific to Saint Louis. It secures a job for the vendors, and also generates business for a locally owned firm. Additionally, consumers win because they can get a pretzel fix without driving too far out of their way. Furthermore, instead of cracking down on pretzel vendors, the city can concentrate on bigger issues, like reducing crime and fixing the streets.
I applaud the city for taking a hands-off approach, and I hope that this is predictive of a larger trend of encouraging entrepreneurial activity in Missouri.