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After backlash, and muscle from the mayor, Logan Square Farmers Market reopens

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Logan Square Farmers Market vendors set up their stalls as usual on Sunday, despite a passing threat last week that organizers might pause the market due to pedestrian safety concerns.

The market’s organizer on Wednesday said they would pause the market this weekend because it failed to secure a city permit to close Logan Boulevard.

But responding to intense reaction from vendors, organizer Nilda Esparza said the market would be held after all, saying she had secured the permit to address safety.

“It was a clusterf—,” Esparza, who is also executive director of the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce, told the Sun-Times.

After the uproar from vendors, she said Mayor Brandon Johnson got involved, and the permit was approved for Sunday closures of Logan Boulevard through Oct. 29.

Esparza said she needed the permit to address traffic issues on the boulevard and near the Centennial Monument, where unofficial vendors have been setting up shop.

Esparza said she did not reach out to Johnson. Asked if Johnson facilitated the permit approval, she said: “Yes. Of course, I mean, obviously something was said. But I’m not sure.”

Asked what role he played in the approval of the Logan Square Farmer Market street closure permit, Mayor Brandon Johnson, “It’s the people’s role.”

Asked what role he played in the approval of the Logan Square Farmer Market street closure permit, Mayor Brandon Johnson, “It’s the people’s role.”

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Johnson toured the farmers market late Sunday morning, but he avoided directly answering questions about how the permit was granted within about a day of it being denied.

Asked what role he played in getting the farmers market its street closure permit, Johnson told the Sun-Times: “It’s the people’s role.” 

Pressed again, Johnson said: “And that’s what Chicago’s all about. It’s the soul of Chicago.”

Asked about frustrated vendors, some of whom scrambled to find another market, Johnson said: “It looks like we’re doing fine today. How many people are out here today? Hundreds, right?”

Esparza maintained that pedestrian safety was her main concern in declaring, then rescinding, the one-week shutdown.

She said her own staff “experienced close calls” with motorists.

“I just couldn’t continue to operate in that way,” Esparza said. “It wasn’t productive. And I wanted to be preventative. Why can’t we be preventative?”

The market on Logan Boulevard between the Illinois Centennial Monument and Whipple Street has attracted unlicensed vendors who began setting up around the market, many of them to the east, where they sell used items and art.

Market organizers last week fenced off a section of the boulevard between Whipple Street and Sacramento Avenue. The fence was in place again this weekend.

Esparza said the outlaw vendors were told to set up on the other side of Milwaukee Avenue, south of the monument, in a “mega-bazaar” that remained un-permitted with the city. Esparza said she’s unable to obtain a permit for the space but is directing the DIY vendors to set up there anyway.

She’s in the process of “developing a fee process” for those vendors, she said.

Unpermitted “outlaw” vendors set up in a mega-bazaar on the other side of Milwaukee Avenue from the farmers market.

Unpermitted “outlaw” vendors set up in a mega-bazaar on the other side of Milwaukee Avenue from the farmers market.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

One vendor in the semi-sanctioned bazaar on Sunday said she prefers the location to the now-fenced-off part of the boulevard.

“This is so much better. Nothing beats the traffic,” said the vendor, who asked to be called Clarice.

But some vendors avoided the new “mega-bazaar” and set up near the Centennial Monument, where about 16 sellers set up on Sunday. But business wasn’t going so well for some of them.

“It’s much slower over here. It kind of sucks,” said Haley Conner, a vendor of vintage picture frames who weeks ago had been selling from the spot near Sacramento.

By noon on Sunday, she had sold only one picture frame for $15. She had sold around $200 worth by the same time at the other location.

A section of Logan Boulevard was closed Sunday. Organizers of the weekly farmers market  sought the closure out of concern for the safety of pedestrians.

A section of Logan Boulevard was closed Sunday. Organizers of the weekly farmers market sought the closure out of concern for the safety of pedestrians.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

At the official market, vendor Betty Alper said she planned to sell on Sunday, whether or not organizers canceled it.

“I was going to do it anyway. Lots of vendors were speaking to each other. I said, ‘If we don’t set up, someone else will,’” said Alper, who sells vegan baked goods.

Market organizers should have consulted vendors before deciding to close the market, then reopen it, Alper said.

She does not want the market to expand.

“Because the market has been growing, I’ve been selling less,” she said.

Alper also sells at the 61st Street Farmers Market near her South Shore home. Although there’s a tenth the number of customers at that market, she makes more sales there.



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