Hollywood tour bus vendors worry about job losses amid crackdown
For 90 minutes Monday, City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, accompanied by Los Angeles street officials and a scrum of TV cameras, informed Hollywood tour bus operators that they can no longer sell tickets from sidewalk kiosks.
The mood seemed to be one of disbelief.
“I never thought this day would come,’’ said “Melrose” Larry Green, who sells tickets for Openbustours.com outside a T-shirt shop on Hollywood Boulevard. “We have to make a living and this will make it tougher.”
O’Farrell’s team handed out dozens of letters informing tour vendors that a city ordinance that took effect Sunday makes it illegal to sell tickets from the public right-of-way. On Hollywood Boulevard, that means along the gray terrazzo sidewalks occupied each day by throngs of tourists following the Walk of Fame.
The City Council approved the new law to begin managing the crowds that come to Hollywood, with foot traffic sometimes spilling out in to the street. Although it will hurt sales, Green said, he will find a way to work within the new rules.
“We don’t live in the Mojave Desert. We live in the city -- I understand that,’’ he said. “But I believe we all have to compromise.”
Nearby, Jesse and Roxanne Lee, a young married couple who work for the same tour company, said the change will immediately affect their ability to pay their bills.
“If he can’t sell tours, I don’t know how we’re going to pay our rent,’’ said Roxanne Lee. The couple estimated that the tour bus business employs hundreds of people along the boulevard.
Under the ordinance, tour operators can sell to tourists from shops and kiosks on private property. But many of the sellers notified Monday say they can’t afford to lease private space.
Other said removing kiosks from the busy sidewalks will cut into ticket receipts.
“I think it’s going to hinder our business,’’ said Raquel Benadda, an owner of Hollywood Sightseeing. “We greet people. We give them information. We want them to have a good time while they’re in L.A.”
O’Farrell said the changes won’t affect the the dozens of people who don costumers and pose for tourist photos outside the TCL Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex at Highland Avenue.
It also doesn’t address the proliferation of CD sellers who ply the sidewalks, shoving discs into tourists hands and then asking for a donation. O’Farrell said previous city attempts to regulate them have proved unsuccessful after the city was sued for violating their constitutional rights.
But he does hope to send a message to everyone who works Hollywood Boulevard, the councilman said.
“It’s important for us to raise the standards,’’ he said. “It’s about time. The people deserve this.”
As O’Farrell was conducting his tour, a CD vendor got into a scuffle with a TV news reporter. Los Angeles police officers who were talking to vendors apprehended the vendor and put him in handcuffs.
The man, who didn’t want to give his name, threw a stack of CDs at a reporter as he was being taken into custody.
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