LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — For some, street vendors are a symbol of the American Dream, a way that anyone can make a profit doing something they love.

For others, it’s just about making ends meet, surviving by scrapping out a few bucks where they can so they can pay the bills.

Helping to preserve the spirit — whether it’s the ideal or the gritty reality — was a big reason behind a new law that Gov. Joe Lombardo signed this week. Senate Bill 92 (SB92) was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Fabian Doñate, who sees street vendors as a valued part of the community.

“At the bottom line, I believe that street food vendors deserve to be treated with respect and dignity,” Doñate said in a hearing in early May.

The bill creates a path to business licensing for people who are currently operating under a maze of city and county regulations. Usually, the discussion about laws and street vendors surrounds keeping them off of the Las Vegas Strip, pedestrian bridges and the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, away from Allegiant Stadium. Out of sight, out of mind.

Doñate’s bill focuses on food vendors, specifying that they cannot be outlawed or subjected to fines for working in residential areas. It’s a big step forward for the community, according to a group that worked on the proposal.

Tony Ramirez, government affairs manager for Make the Road Nevada, said SB92 would not have been possible without the contributions from the group’s membership.

“It’s important for our vendors to be protected. In this city, these folks are small businesses, essentially. They contribute to the local economy, they pay taxes and it’s time that they be recognized as such,” Ramirez said.

“I’m glad that the Legislature and the governor have recognized that and that these folks can continue to operate without harassment and fear now that this bill has been signed,” he said.

Vendors have to stay 1,500 feet away from resort hotels, stadiums/arenas (20,000-plus capacity) and convention facilities; they cannot operate on the side of a highway.

The bill allows Clark and Washoe counties to require street vendors to get a license/permit and maintain sanitary conditions. They can restrict hours of operation and prohibit vendors from operating:

  • near a farmers market
  • near special events
  • near restaurants
  • near schools/child care facilities, community centers, election polling places, churches, county-owned recreation facilities
  • near a “highly trafficked pedestrian mall/convention center/entertainment district

To be clear, the law does not prohibit operating at these sites — it merely allows counties to do so if they choose.

“It was important to our membership at Make the Road Nevada and us as an organization as well to make that sure we protected the residential areas for our local vendors,” Ramirez said. “That is primarily where our local folks operate. We feel that this piece of legislation does that.”