Vendors outside Fenway being phased out

Can operate until they die, retire

THE CITY OF BOSTON is slowly phasing out the street vendors around Fenway Park, claiming that the 18 small business people selling grilled chicken sandwiches, sausage sandwiches, peanuts, and baseball caps represent a safety concern.

The vendors will be allowed to continue to operate until they die or retire, but their operating permits will not be allowed to pass on to anyone else. As the vendors disappear, the concession business outside Fenway Park will gradually be left to Aramark, a Red Sox vendor that sells food on the cordoned-off section of Yawkey Way on game days.

The 18 remaining street vendors around Fenway have a pretty good gig. They pay $360 to $900 a year for permits to operate at specific locations around Fenway on game days. In return, they get to hawk their $8 sandwiches, $3 Cokes, $4.75 bags of peanuts, and $30 baseball caps to fans.

The rent was approved by the Boston City Council about 30 years ago and has not been raised since then. At some point in the 1990s, city officials decided to phase out the program, but neither city officials nor the vendors seem to have many details. There is nothing in writing about the phase-out, and some of the vendors say they know nothing about it.

“The Fenway program is a legacy program which is slowly being phased out as historical vendors relinquish their permits,” says Matthew Mayrl, chief of staff at the Boston Public Works Department. The basis for phasing out the street program, he says, is “safety concerns regarding an over-proliferation of street vendors in the Fenway area during the 1990s.”
Near the end of last season, CommonWealth spoke with a number of the street vendors around Fenway Park. Nicky Jacobs, who sells small bags of peanuts for $4.75 at the entrance to Yawkey Way, seemed unaware of the phase-out but seemed resigned when told about it. “What are you going to do?” he asks. “I was hoping someone in my family would take over.  But that’s the breaks.”

One vendor who asked not to be identified said: “It’s anti-small business. They’re not telling the vendors at Down­town Crossing or the Boston Common their days are numbered. So why are they singling us out? There’s no safety issues here.”
Another vendor, who also requested anonymity, said: “Why will they let Aramark stay on the streets selling their more expensive stuff, but at the same time they want to push us out?”

There’s no evidence the Red Sox are behind the vendor phase-out,  but the ball club could benefit. According to sports industry specialists, stadium concessionaires like Aramark generally pay the teams 45 percent or more of sales. Aramark also runs the food concessions inside the park for the Red Sox.

Twin Enterprises, which owns the huge souvenir store on Yawkey Way across the street from Fenway, has four permitted spots to hawk its sports souvenirs and clothing on the streets around the ballpark. Arthur DeAngelo, whose name is on the permits, is retired and living in Florida.

In a recent interview, Artin Kouyoumdjian, who sells sausages and chicken outside Fenway Park, says when he started in 1981 the vendors were not licensed and often wound up being cited by city inspectors. Late in that decade, as the streets surrounding the park became crowded with more and more vendors, Kouyoumdjian says the Boston Public Works Department made the decision to regulate them through the permitting process.

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Kouyoumdjian recalls a meeting at City Hall in which all the vendors sat down with then public works commissioner Joseph Casazza, who assigned them specific locations around the park. Kouyoumdjian says Casazza told the vendors they could hold on to their selling areas for life, but when they pass on or call it quits that would be it.

The permit issued to vendors requires abutting property owners to sign off on them each year. The current owners of the Red Sox routinely give their approval, but Kouyoumdjian says former CEO John Harrington tried to do away with the street vendors.
“Harrington hated us. He didn’t want us here,” says Kou­youmdjian.  He says Boston Mayor Thomas Menino stepped up to bat to save the day,  successfully pressuring the team to let the vendors stay.

“Being at Fenway Park gives me a reason to get up in the morning,” says Kouyoumdjian. “When you make a week’s pay, you pay the bills. It makes you happy.”