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Could Be Quite the Showdown Today Between Specialty-Food Vendors and Dallas City Hall

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Today's meeting of the city council's Transportation & Environment Committee, scheduled for a 2 p.m. kickoff at Dallas City Hall, should be an exciting one, for a change. That's because, as we noted Friday, the committee will discuss not only making it easier to start up a community garden, but it will also talk about licensing and regulating neighborhood farmers markets -- a sore spot ever since the city started shutting 'em down in September.

Several local specialty-food vendors to whom I spoke over the weekend -- including Dude, Sweet Chocolate's Katherine Clapner, who opened her Bishop Arts storefront 10 days ago, much to my dad's delight -- aren't at all happy with the proposal that Dallas Farmers Market will issue the permits for the neighborhood markets. Far as they're concerned, the only reasons the neighborhood markets popped up in the first place is because Dallas Farmers Market more or less ran off the specialty vendors by demanding they sign restrictive vendor agreements. Clapner said yesterday it was her success at the smaller markets that allowed her to open the Bishop Arts location; she's never sold downtown.

Vendors are also unhappy with the proposed guidelines that would limit the number of neighborhood markets allowed by City Hall to 10 -- all of which must be three miles from each other ... and three miles from Dallas Farmers Market. The city's also proposing to cap the amount of specialty foods sold to 20 percent; the other 80 percent must be "local farm-grown produce," a restriction that, says one local farmer, would put Dallas Farmers Market out of business. I understand all the familiar specialty-foods vendors around town will be down at City Hall today. Schutze'll be there too -- let him know if you need him to pick up anything.

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