- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Uncertainty is prompting some street vendors to wait until after the Washington Nationals’ home opener tomorrow night to invest in team merchandise and baseball memorabilia.

“The Washington Nationals situation for the licensed vendors is truly an unknown,” said Brenda Sayles, who was selling inflatable toys and gadgets Friday night outside the D.C. Armory, which was hosting the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. “It’s a wait-and-see kind of thing.”

Ms. Sayles, who has been vending in the city for 18 years, has a license from the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to occupy one of the 23 spots designated for vendors outside the D.C. Armory, which is next to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium where the Nationals are playing. She said she does not know how many games she will sell at.

“If they buy the way soccer fans buy, I’m not going to be doing all of the games,” she said.

Ms. Sayles said she is trying to obtain Washington Senators collectible items, including postcards, trading cards and stamps, and plans to sell baseball pennants, buttons and other licensed items. She said she plans to charge between $3 and $10 for most of her merchandise.

Vendor Ann Young, who worked at the Nationals home exhibition game earlier this month, said she plans to sell Washington T-shirts, hats and other tourist items instead of baseball memorabilia.

“The first game [an exhibition against the New York Mets] was good,” she said.

Although Nationals ticket sales have been high, the team has fared poorly in television ratings.

Aminata Phillips, who has been a food vendor for 17 years, said she plans to attend as many Nationals games as possible, but does not plan to bulk up her inventory.

“I’m always overstocked,” said Ms. Phillips, who faced an unrelenting line of circus-goers Friday night ordering hot dogs and chili dogs. “I just want to give it a shot and see and then take it from there.”

Baseball fans will not be allowed to take food and beverages into the stadium, an issue vendors will have to grapple with.

Steve Jackson, a merchandise vendor who works at mostly special events and sporting events, said he will sell cameras, visors, sun shades, hats and water guns at the games.

However, he said he does not plan to sell licensed team gear because it is “too expensive.”

The Metropolitan Police Department will scour the area in front of the D.C. Armory to ensure vendors are not selling nonlicensed merchandise bearing the team’s name, according to Sean Ryan, national general manager of Facility Merchandising Inc., which runs the Nationals team store inside RFK Stadium.

“Come opening day, there will be a wide presence of security detail making sure that any product that is not licensed will be taken care of,” Mr. Ryan said.

Some vendors have accused the Washington Nationals and the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, the city agency that operates and manages RFK Stadium and the D.C. Armory, of attempting to drive away licensed vendors.

“They just don’t want us out here,” Ms. Phillips said.

Tony Robinson, director of communications and public affairs for the commission, would not say whether the organization has requested that the city bar vendors from the area in front of the D.C. Armory.

The commission “has no position other than if the vendors are properly licensed through [the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs] they have every right to maintain their operation in front of the D.C. National Guard Armory,” Mr. Robinson wrote in an e-mail message. “This is a District issue, and as [the commission] has no jurisdiction, is not taking any action to prevent or promote vendors.”

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has received complaints from the commission regarding only nonlicensed vendors, according to Gwen Davis, manager of customer services.

The city placed a moratorium on vendor licenses in 1998, so only vendors who already have licenses are able to renew them, said Richard Harris, special event and vending coordinator for the department.

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