“Big Easy” Made Selling Books Not-So-Easy

For two years, the City of New Orleans stalled the opening of a street book vending business because the booksellers did not have a required permit – a permit, however, that was non-existent and could not be issued by the city.

“Big Easy” Made Selling Books Not-So-Easy

Josh Wexler and Anne Jordan Blanton love books and have always dreamed of starting their own bookstore. After moving to New Orleans in August 2001, they decided to start a street vending business to sell books because they did not have enough money to open a storefront operation. The City of New Orleans, however, kept them from opening their business for nearly two years.

New Orleans requires that street vendors obtain specific permits to sell their goods, which Wexler and Blanton were willing to do. While street vendors in New Orleans can get permits to sell razor blades, flowers or food, nowhere in the city code does it mention permits to sell books. Their Catch-22 situation was that vending without a permit – something that was required yet didn’t exist – is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to five months in jail.

City officials were steadfast in preventing Wexler and Blanton from selling books on the street. The couple sued the City of New Orleans in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Judge Stanwood Duval, Jr. ruled in their favor on June 17, 2003, determining that the city’s restriction on selling books on streetcorners just because it had not created a permit to regulate the practice was unconstitutional.

Since the ruling Wexler and Blanton have opened their bookstand, successfully completing their personal “Battle of New Orleans.”

Sources: Institute for Justice, Josh Wexler

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