City Council approves big changes at the West Side Market, expanding lease options and allowing alcohol sales


Update: Cleveland City Council approved an ordinance on Monday, March 21, that overhauled lease regulations and permitted alcohol sales. Here’s the highlights, according to a press release from city council:

  • Holds rents at their 2020 levels for 2022 and caps annual rent increases to no more than a 3% increase in future years.

  • Allows vendors to enter leases for up to three years with one, three-year option to renew. Currently, the city does not allow leases for longer than one year at a time.

  • Permit short-term leases, which would allow the West Side Market to consider daily pop-up events and seasonal vendors.

  • Charges prepared food vendors the same rate as traditional vendors (butcher, meat, vegetable).

  • Repeals a city ordinance that prohibits the sales of alcohol at the West Side Market.

Cleveland City Council is considering legislation proposed by the Bibb administration that would make some changes at the West Side Market. The updates include capping rental rate increases, allowing for longer-term and shorter-term leases, making rates the same among different types of vendors, and permitting alcohol sales.

“Vacancies at the West Side Market are currently at 32%, and the proposed changes seek to close the gap and set the stage for growth at the West Side Market with fairer and flexible lease agreements for all,” Bibb said in a press release. “The proposed legislation opens the door to new opportunities for growth, providing security to our existing vendors and flexibility to attract seasonal vendors to the market.”

According to the release, the proposed changes introduced to council on Monday, Feb. 28 would: 

  • Keep rental rates at their 2020 levels for 2022 and limit annual rent increases to no more than a 3% increase in future years;

  • Allow the city to enter leases for up to three years with one, three-year option to renew. Currently, the city can only enter into leases for one year at a time, which prevents businesses from being able to invest;

  • Permit short-term leases, including daily pop-up events, seasonal vendors, and food trucks; 

  • Charge prepared food vendors the same rate as butcher, meat, and vegetable vendors. Currently, prepared food vendors pay a 60% premium on space compared to traditional vendors; and

  • Repeal the city’s ordinance that prohibits alcohol sales at West Side Market stands. 

Check out The Land’s previous West Side Market coverage.

Bibb is also requesting authorization to renew an agreement with Ohio City, Inc. to collect donations for the market, spend the funds on programs and marketing activities, establish new revenue-generating activities, and engage in long-term planning.

Now that the legislation has been introduced, city council committees must consider it before it comes back to the entire body for passage.

At Monday’s council meeting, Ward 3 council member Kerry McCormack recognized West Side Market Tenants Association president Don Whitaker for his hard work in keeping the market going during the pandemic. He also expressed his support for the legislation, which he said would help to realize long-held goals for the market.

“In 2012, the city celebrated the 100th anniversary of the West Side Market,” said McCormack. “The market sees over one million visitors a year and it’s home to many, many local small businesses. Unfortunately, despite the hardworking businesses and loyal patrons, the city of Cleveland has historically failed to invest in the market. In 2012, we had a big party, and from that point on, we paid it little attention.”

“Today is an exciting day when we start to see actual progress in turning the tides,” he continued. “The community and vendors have been asking for these changes for years. It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s an important step and demonstration that this council and mayor are acting to bring about the change that our beloved market needs.”

To learn more about Cleveland City Council and attending committee meetings where this legislation will be considered, visit https://www.clevelandcitycouncil.org/council/committees.

Lee Chilcote is executive director of The Land.

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