Yellow Green Farmers Market vendor Michael Hoffman was shocked when he arrived at Bodhi’s Brew at the Hollywood market last Thursday. City inspectors stuck a bright red notice on the wall of the vegan deli that he and his wife have run for three years. Their business was shut down.
“We’ve prepared food for the weekend, so we would have all that lost time and money plus our lost profits,” he says. “Two thousand dollars minimum. That’s a lot of damages.”
Over 350 vendors sell food, clothing, produce, and artisan wares on Saturdays and Sundays at the “city within the city.” Thousands of shoppers visit the Yellow Green Farmers Market each weekend and many vendors rely on it as their sole source of income.
Hoffman was frustrated. “It doesn’t make sense that the government is going to be able to shut down a huge business like this without any notice and without giving any sort of justification,” he says.
This is not the first time that vendors have been surprised to learn of an abrupt change at the market. Just last month, the market instituted a controversial parking fee for vendors and customers alike. Vendors were notified via a flyer and management maintained that the change was made to accommodate the market's growing base of customers.
Mark Menagh, general manager of the market, also found an unsafe structure notice on the main door of the building on Thursday. And, like Hoffman, he says he had no idea why.
“The notice effectively shut the market down immediately,” says Menagh. In an attempt to reach the market’s many vendors, Menagh posted a notice on Facebook, but there was no guarantee that any of the vendors would see it. He also arranged for an emergency meeting with city officials on Friday.
Raelin Storey, Director of Communications, Marketing and Economic Development for the City of Hollywood, says that the shutdown was justified, and that the city has had ongoing problems with permitting and fire hazards at the market since 2009.
“I think they were well aware of the requirements of permitting and they should not have been surprised that continued efforts to circumvent those procedures would result in the closure of the facility until they come into compliance,” says Storey,
Menagh maintains that the shutdown was a surprise, but he understands how inspectors who may not be familiar with the market’s complicated infrastructure could be confused.
“We’re located in a refurbished construction warehouse that, in the past, housed water tanks and sheet metal.” Menagh says. “At first look it’s hard to determine what is within code and what is not. We have grown fast and added infrastructure. We have a lot of open permits that have to be inspected.”
Storey says the shutdown was in response to complaints over the past three weeks about unpermitted work and unsafe conditions. She says that based upon an October 11 meeting between market representatives and city officials, the city believed that issues surrounding “significant” safety issues were being addressed.
“We all felt we were on the same page and that they were going to be working with us to remedy the unpermitted work for building and fire codes,” Storey says. “But instead of bringing old work into compliance, they were trying to install additional kiosks.”
City officials allowed the market to open over the weekend with a fire department outreach truck on hand for added safety. But Hoffman, who is also an attorney, thinks the shutdown was about more than safety concerns.
“I think somebody tried to pull a power move,” Hoffman says.
Menagh thinks that Friday's meeting laid the groundwork for better communications with the city going forward. Mostly, he hopes something as drastic as a shutdown never happens again. “They never gave me a reason for what I consider due process,” he says. “My understanding of due process is to tell us we have an issue and then give us 'x' number of days to rectify it.”