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DCRA response to criticism over Liberty Market closure

Last week the Liberty Market opened for the Spring season at 7th and K Streets NW on Mount Vernon Square. The operation was promptly shut down for not having adequate permits. Yesterday Martin Moulton, president of the Convention Center Community Association (CCCA), issued an open letter to Councilmembers Jack Evans (Ward 2) and Tommy Wells (Ward 6) to criticize the action taken against the market.

A communication, included after the Read More jump, from DCRA has been issued on the Shaw listservs in response to Martin’s letter.

Response from Mike Rupert of DCRA:

Shaw neighbors,

The event that was taking place near the corner of 7th & K streets this weekend was not a farmers’ market. Farmers’ markets are for farmers selling their own homegrown fresh products from the region and are exempt from licensing requirements for events on public space.

The event that was taking place was a collection of vendors of which very few, to our knowledge, were farmers.

Secondly, the “raid” as described in a release from the event’s organizer was actually a single police officer asking for basic information about the products and for documentation giving permission to operate on the private property. The organizers could not produce any documentation. And although DCRA was not present during the event, the organizer told the police officer the food vendors were not farmers.

We have been in contact with the event organizer and told them exactly what they need to do to continue to operate their market. They need to produce a letter giving them permission to operate at that location which will allow them to get a Certificate of Occupancy for the event, and they need to get a General Business license.

Many of the food products being sold were also products we believe were not grown by the region’s farmers including Columbian coffee, oranges and other items. It is important that those vendors selling non-regional food products get a food license so the city’s heath inspectors can ensure they are safe for residents. In addition to these suspect food items, the event had vendors selling t-shirts, crafts and other items not covered under the farmers’ market exemption.

We are huge supporters of farmers’ markets and have been lauded by D.C. Hunger Solutions and the D.C. Farmers’ Market Collaborative for our efforts to simplify regulations that encourage new farmers’ markets and differentiate them in regulations from other events.

We have already told this event’s organizers that we will work closely with them to come into compliance with the regulations that cover the type of market they are attempting to create. But based on the products at this event, it would not be considered a farmer’s market.

Please let us know if anyone has any questions or concerns.

What are your thoughts?

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Comments

  1. 1

    Michael Berman says

    The information provided by the DCRA representative is false and misleading. Diverse Markets has a contract to operate on the Historical Society’s property, which was assured to be private land. This contract was produced to the police officers (plural, as it included Metropolitan Police as well as Park Police). This market does include farmers-growers of their own product, as well as locally made and specially-sourced natural food products, including directly imported coffee beans from Honduras (www.hondocoffee.com), baked breads, natural teas,Provence-imported olive oils and other unique items. Obviously at this time of the year, there are very few locally harvested fruits or vegetables, thus we do allow our agricultural purveyors to supplement their products with related items, like oranges. We also welcome products that are focused on a particular cultural need, thus one agricultural purveyor sells sugar cane and plantains. It cannot be grown locally, but it is important to certain communities in the area and not easily or cheaply found. We believe strongly in providing fresh, nutritious and natural products to the community, rather than a strictly purist “growers-only” market, which can already be found in the neighboring Penn Quarter area. This was intended to be a community market that would sell a variety of products as well as locally grown goods. All participating vendors have their food licenses and are legal to to business in DC.

    Further, the “organizer”, Diverse Markets Management has a basic business license and the land owner has a Certificate of Occupancy and are in discussions with DCRA to figure out what, if anything, they need to do to comply with regulations for market activity on presumed private land. “Farmers Markets” regulations were created by DDOT for the use of public Space. It has not been determined that this is public space, as many events has taken place here before without city involvement, nor that it is DDOT’s jurisdiction.

    I regret DCRA’s dispersions that this activity was illegal and further that they have acted in such a crude manner. I welcome the communities support in what was to be a community gathering place and a source of wholesome products at reasonable prices.

  2. 3

    Chris 555 Mass Ave says

    Whenever I was there (admittedly infreqeuntly) there were no farm products being offered – only tchotckes and other junk. Not what I would call a farmer’s market.

  3. 4

    MVTer says

    I bought vegetables there Chris. And some great bread every week. The first few weeks the vegetable vendors were iffy, but they got consistent as time went on.

  4. 5

    FourthandEye says

    I support the market. However I think the choice of the word “raid” in the press release was a bit over the top and unfortunate. The word “raid” evokes the imagery of a DEA drug bust in the minds of many. This has led to a small number of people spreading the rumor that this was a drug related shutdown. Not the case. I’ve talked to individuals close to the situation and this is simply a permitting issue that is confused by jurisdictional issues and the interpretation of the Historical Society of Washington’s Certificate of Occupancy.