City denies vendors space at Hash Bash

BY JEREMY BERKOWITZ
Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 21, 2002

Hash Bash, a long-time Ann Arbor tradition for lovers of cannabis, will not be the same this year for merchants who like to sell their products outside on the street. Interim City Administrator Ron Olson declared last week that vendors and merchants will not be allowed on sidewalks during Hash Bash this year on April 6.

Paul Wong
Ben Dickson of Monroe, Mich., looks at glass pipes at Stairway to Heaven on South State Street yesterday. Vendors will not be able to set up booths on sidewalks at Hash Bash. (DAVID KATZ/Daily)

"The city administrator has issued a proclamation that will invalidate sidewalk occupancy vendors and peddlers permits for that day in a specified area surrounding the State Street and University Diag area," James Kosteva, director of community relations for the University, said.

The reasoning behind the decision is to prevent vendors from blocking the sidewalks full of thousands of people. In previous years, many of these vendors were people from out of town who did not even apply for a permit to sell their goods.

But Stairway to Heaven owner Bob Kosak said he feels the city is overreacting.

"They are using a sledgehammer to kill an ant," Kosak said.

Kosak said he believes a better solution would be to only allow Ann Arbor merchants on the sidewalks. He said last year, the State Street Association bought all the vending spaces and sold them to merchants who desired them.

Hash Bash organizer Adam Brook said he resents the merchants who make a lot of money during Hash Bash, but never donate any money to the Help Eliminate Marijuana Prohibition Group who puts on the rally in the Diag.

"None of these businesses ever give a dime," Brook said.

Several Ann Arbor merchants say Hash Bash brings a lot of tourists to Ann Arbor and more money for their businesses.

"The real issue for business people is that it draws people to town and it's a great day for sales," said Mark Lamke, manager of In Flight Sports. "Everybody looks forward to this event, it is like the first day of spring."

Brook questions the city's ability to take this action.

"I don't know how the interim city administrator thinks it's within his rights to do this," Brook said.

There has been much speculation among organizers of the event and local merchants that the city is trying to slowly do away with the 30-year tradition.

But Ann Arbor City Council Member Joe Upton (R-2nd Ward) said he feels this is not the case at all.

"I don't believe this is a concerted effort to go in that direction," Upton said.

Lamke says he does not care about Hash Bash's main goal, just that it has always been a wonderful day for Ann Arbor.

"Madison (Wisc.) and Ann Arbor are the two hippest cities in the Midwest, is that a bad thing?" Lamke said. "It's not like people blatantly are abusing the law. ... This has been going on for so long."