DENVER (CBS4) – Vendors selling everything from peanuts to Broncos hats and $1 bottles of water say they are being effectively pushed out of business by new rules implemented by the Denver Broncos which were approved by the city of Denver.
“I think its wrong,” said water and peanut vendor Mo Prante. “They aren’t allowing us to compete with them. They make a lot of money.”
For years, Prante and other peddlers have been selling their wares between an RTD light rail station and the stadium. The path along Walnut Street is alternately known as the stadium walk, Bronco walk or the stadium loop. But the Broncos say after years of fan complaints about the path on game days, they applied for and received special event permits for every home game this season.
The permits allow them to establish rules for the approximately half mile long path from the light rail station to the stadium entrances. They immediately banned bikes, pedi cabs, scooters and peddlers from the walkway which the team says is used by about 20,000 fans on game days.
While vendors said they understand banning bikes, scooters and pedicabs, Prante said the new rules forcing vendors off the roadway have cut her game day business in half.
“Our sales are affected. I’m dropping peanuts to a dollar so I can compete.”
Prante believes the Broncos are trying to edge out the peddlers whose products can cost a lot less than what is sold inside the stadium. She is convinced the changes are about “them making money, the NFL making their money.”
But Scott Bliek, the Broncos assistant general manager for stadium operations, told CBS4, “We’re not trying to put anybody out of business.”
He said for years, fans have been complaining about the traffic on the walkway before and after games, the poor lighting and deteriorating pavement. He said obtaining special event permits for game days allows the team to control the pathway and ensure fan safety.
“By having those peddlers in the way people were having to shuffle and bump and work around them. We’re trying to keep Walnut Street open as much as possible,” Bliek said.
He said the team is upgrading the pavement, lighting and cleaning up the stadium walk after home games. He said the peddlers are welcome to continue selling “as long as they’re not on the roadway. They’re free to come out and continue their business.”
But some of the vendors say being banned from the roadway separates them from their customers and is dramatically cutting into their business.
Damien Henning, who sells sunglasses for $5 each, called the new rules “pretty Draconian.” He said the new rules and restricted locations where he can operate cost him 60% of his business during the first regular season home game.
“But I know they probably don’t like us selling things they sell inside for four or five times the price. They’re trying to get more business for themselves.”
Henning said after three years of working outside the stadium, this will probably be his last.
”They’re making it harder and harder for peddlers to sell their things.”
A year ago, Denver police ticketed a dozen licensed street vendors outside the stadium saying they were violating the terms of their licenses by not “roaming” while selling their products. Their licenses require them to continuously move and not remain in a stationary position.
Denver’s public works department normally requires a minimum of 60 days between the date someone applies for a special event permit and the time its granted. Paperwork obtained by CBS4 showed the Broncos applied for the special event permits Aug. 20, but they were granted Sept. 13 — two days before the first regular season home game and less than half the normal 60 day waiting period.
Bliek told CBS4, “We weren’t asking anybody to speed anything up for us.” Nancy Kuhn from Denver Public works said in cases where safety is an issue, the normal waiting period can be waived and permits granted on an expedited basis.
“When a permit request is coming through to address a safety concern, we’ll review it as quickly as possible,” said Kuhn. “We can offer flexibility in reviewing safety-related requests and want to support the Broncos operational plan to get people in and out of this event safely.”
Bliek said the team had been discussing the changes with the city since January and emphasized the new regulations were not about money, but movement.
“There’s locations for them (vendors) to be. We’re trying to keep the congestion off the street.”
But long-time vendors, like Mo Prante, say the new rules governing Walnut Street may put her on the sidelines.
“They’re catching us in a catch-22 where a lot of us are considering not coming back, which is what they want.”