The way the Colorado Rockies have been playing lately, you'd think that scoring a ticket at Coors Field would be a highly welcome development.
Unless, of course, you happen to be a disabled peddler hawking snacks and beverages outside the ballpark, and the ticket in question happens to be a citation issued by the Denver Police Department, requiring you to shut down for the day and cough up a hefty fine if you hope to get back in the peanut trade any time soon.
Over Memorial Day weekend, police issued seventeen citations to peddlers at Coors Field for allegedly violating city regulations. The crackdown has been described by city officials as part of an ongoing effort to improve the safety and security of so-called "soft targets" for terrorism; keeping peddlers moving, for example, rather than selling from a fixed location, is supposed to improve pedestrian flow.
But at least one manager of a vending operation is still fuming over the enforcement action; he says the city has been wildly inconsistent in how it interprets and enforces its policies regarding "roaming itinerant sales," particularly in cases involving disabled peddlers.
"They picked the busiest weekend of the year to come after us," says Mark Vosika, who oversees a small team of peddlers outside the ballpark. "We lost out on thousands of dollars. We never bother anybody. But the cops, every now and then, they really harass us."
According to guidelines developed by Denver's Department of Excise and Licenses, peddlers are supposed to engage in roaming sales and carry their goods on them, without benefit of a cart or wagon. But the rule's a bit more ambiguous for those who qualify for a disabled peddler's license; there's an exemption that allows the disabled to use a "wheeled device," as long as it's approved by the department's director and doesn't stash more goods than one person could carry.
Vosika's team includes a peddler suffering from scoliosis, another with severe arthritis, and a Vietnam veteran with various disabilities — all licensed as disabled peddlers. They apparently ran afoul of the police because their wheeled devices were deemed noncompliant, they weren't moving around enough, or both. Vosika encountered similar problems two years ago but thought they were resolved; he has a 2015 e-mail from Stacie Loucks, then the director of Excise and Licenses, approving his carts. But the police who ticketed his guys this season were unimpressed.
"They said that none of this matters because Stacie is no longer the director," he says. "You've got to be kidding me. That's not right. But they kept saying, 'Tell it to the judge.'"
As for the roaming issue, Vosika maintains that his disabled peddlers tend to station themselves in unobtrusive locations, such as near utility poles, for their safety as well as that of their customers.
"When we move around, that's when we get in people's way," he insists. "How can a person reasonably keep moving and participate in roaming sales when they are disabled? Doesn't it depend on their disability? I think the rule is contradictory in nature. Being required to roam actually puts a disabled person in harm's way, with the volume of people and crowds they are marketing to."
Department of Excise and Licenses public affairs director Dan Rowland notes that police officers handed out close to a hundred warnings and copies of the license provisions before they began issuing citations over the holiday weekend. "The whole point of a peddler's license is they have to be moving," he says. "The law is pretty clear about that."
Rowland couldn't address Vosika's claims about the prior approval of his carts. He suggested the appropriate response might be for Vosika to sit down with the current department executive director, Ashley Kilroy, and staff. But the police, he cautioned, will continue to do what they deem necessary to keep walkways clear near the ballpark. "They are on heightened alert," he says. "There's no question about that. They are looking at taking appropriate action toward these soft targets."
Vosika suspects his business is a target, too. His group sells bottled water and snacks for much less than vendors inside the ballpark, who have contracts with the Rockies. "They ultimately want to get rid of everybody out there," he says. "If I'm going to continue to work down there, I need some clarity and peace of mind. A lot of people, this is their livelihood."