Unofficial vendors set up shop outside Logan Square Farmers Market. Will city ticket them?

Some say the sellers are taking advantage by avoiding permit and other fees. Others say it’s a “beautiful” example of the community coming together after the pandemic.

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Unofficial sellers Logan Square Farmers Market.

Unauthorized vendors are seen on Logan Boulevard outside the Logan Square Farmers Market. Vendors in the market pay for permits and follow other city rules, like obtaining business insurance. The unofficial sellers do not.

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Controversy surrounding an unofficial bazaar outside the Logan Square Farmers Market has grown in recent weeks as the unpermitted market continues to grow, rivaling the size of the official one.

Some say the unofficial vendors are taking advantage of foot traffic to sell wares without paying the permit fee. Others say the unofficial market is a “beautiful” example of the community coming together post-pandemic.

It’s unclear what the city will do about it.

Rumors have swirled that police may ticket the unlicensed vendors.

Last Sunday, market organizers spoke with unpermitted vendors, warning them that they could be issued tickets without a permit, one unlicensed vendor told the Sun-Times.

It wouldn’t be the first time. Police ticketed vendors outside the market three years ago, Block Club Chicago reported then.

Local Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) said he would visit the market Sunday to get a “personal sense of the situation,” but did not comment further.

Nilda Esparza, executive director of the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce, which runs the market, did not respond to requests for comment.

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The unofficial market has grown so big that a neighbor who goes by Marianne doesn’t feel safe biking on the outer street of Logan Boulevard, where people sometimes walk in the road to maneuver around the packed market.

Folded chairs and a sign for Logan Square Farmers Market lean on a tree.

Folded chairs and a sign for the Logan Square Farmers Market rest against a tree. Last Sunday, market organizers spoke with unpermitted vendors, warning that they could be issued tickets for selling without a permit, one unlicensed vendor told the Sun-Times. Three years ago, police cited unlicensed vendors.

Anthony Jackson/For The Sun-Times

“My heart beats. It’s scary because I don’t want to hit a child,” Marianne said.

She lives on the boulevard near Whipple Street, where the popular official summer market ends and the unofficial one begins. She’s seen the latter grow from a few folks selling used items a couple of years ago, to a massive market that’s taken over the boulevard from Whipple to Sacramento.

“It’s unfair that all of the unofficial vendors are riding on the coattails of the popularity of the official market. Many of the vendors are local and regional producers,” Marianne said. “It’s a question of fairness and going through the proper channels.”

Vendors inside the market pay for permits and follow other city rules like obtaining business insurance.

Most of the unofficial vendors don’t compete with the market directly. Sellers outside the market do not sell food. Most sell used items.

One unofficial vendor began selling handmade portraits two weeks ago after noticing the growing market.

“I thought, there’s so many people here, I could make a couple hundred dollars making portraits,” said Alison, who asked that her last name not be used. She needed extra cash to pay for a pet’s medical expenses and, after consulting people on social media, was assured she would probably be safe doing it without a permit.

Alison made a couple hundred dollars the first weekend. The next weekend went even better. She made double that.

But despite the success, she’s unsure she’ll come back next Sunday.

“I think it’s the threat of ticketing,” Alison said. A volunteer with the Chamber of Commerce visited her stall last Sunday and said she may be ticketed if she continues without a permit. The volunteer asked for her email address, but Alison said she hasn’t heard back.

Vendors have also run short on space, and she’s had to show up earlier in the morning to claim a spot.

“If this continues and people begin elbowing to get a spot, it’s going to be” difficult, she said.

Alison said she would pay a fee to continue selling her portraits.

“Even if it’s a $100, or a percentage of sales. Personally I don’t want to do that, but I’m willing to do what’s fair,” she said.

Daniel Orkin lives near the market and comes almost every week with his young son.

He supports the unofficial market, viewing it as “a pure sign of community — something you get from living next to people in the city. That’s more valuable than any attraction,” he said.

If police do ticket the sellers, Orkin said it would galvanize the community in support of them.

“This is such a beautiful thing for the community to come together in person after the last two years. It’s needed,” Orkin said. “If the chamber doesn’t support these people, it’s a categorical misread of what the community needs right now.”

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