WASHINGTON -- A new petition circulating among Adams Morgan businessowners is asking District of Columbia officials to "stop treating record stores and vintage stores like pawn shops."
The petitioners want the D.C. Council to pass emergency legislation that would exempt D.C. businesses that sell used and vintage goods from the requirement that they have a secondhand-dealers license.
Advocates say this license -- which, among other things, requires the businesses to make a daily report to the Metropolitan Police Department of their transactions (except for the sale of "rags, bones, old iron and paper") -- is meant to regulate pawn dealers, not record shops or vintage clothing stores.
D.C.'s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs disagrees.
After Memorial Day, the city will begin fining Adams Morgan businesses like Idle Time Books, Crooked Beat Records and Meeps -- stores selling new and used books, records and clothes, respectively -- that do not show they have started the process of applying for secondhand-dealers licenses.
DCRA spokesman Helder Gil told The Huffington Post that these businesses "have always been required to have a secondhand-dealers license," and that there's been "no change in policy. The requirement has always been the same."
The store owners are objecting to this requirement for a number of reasons.
Some say the requirement hasn't always been the same. Cathy Chung, who co-owns Meeps, told HuffPost that DCRA had previously told her that she needed only a general business license for her store, which has been around for two decades. (Chung has owned Meeps since December.)
Robert Clayton, a lawyer representing some of the stores, said the problem extended beyond regulatory inconsistencies. He believes there isn't even a category of secondhand-dealers license that would cover the business these stores engage in.
Bill Daly, owner of Crooked Beat Records, told HuffPost the license is just too expensive. "It'd add $700 to $800 every two years," he said.
Daly said that if he is in fact required to get the secondhand-dealers license, he'll stop selling used records at his D.C. store -- and may move his entire operation to Virginia. "I don't want to do that," he said. "We're not a pawn shop. We don't sell guns. We don't sell diamonds. We sell records. Posters sometimes. I don't get this."
Here is the petition in full:
Please stop treating record stores and vintage stores like pawn shops
On April 4, officials with the DC Office of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) raided a number of Adams Morgan and U Street-area businesses that sell vintage and used goods, threatening them with fines and closure for operating without a secondhand business license. This license is intended to regulate pawn shops, to safeguard against the selling of stolen goods.
The regulations would require shops like Meeps, Idle Time Books, GoodWood, and Miss Pixies -- as well as all the record stores in town -- to submit to MPD's pawn unit a detailed list of goods acquired each time they make a purchase. Additionally, MPD wants the stores to hold items for 15 days for police inspection before they can be sold. These requirements introduce a regulatory load which helps no one and threatens the existence of the small businesses that make DC unique.
DC's secondhand business regulations are outdated, unnecessarily burdensome, and overly broad. A lawyer working with DC's small business community has proposed amendments to the regulations that would bring them up to date and carve out exemptions for the businesses described above.
I request that the City Council pass emergency legislation that would provide 90 days of relief and time to establish a permanent exemption for businesses that sell used and vintage goods. It's vital that this happen to re-establish a sense of trust between local government and the businesses that drive our local economy.
Will the petition be successful? A spokesman for D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who represents Adams Morgan, told HuffPost that the councilmember is "still sifting through this."
UPDATE, 11:22 a.m.: The petition has 522 signatures, as of just after 11 a.m. on Friday.
UPDATE, 2:12 p.m.: DCRA spokesman Helder Gil told The Huffington Post that the agency's director "agreed yesterday to extend the deadline for submitting an application [for a secondhand-dealers license] – thereby avoiding a fine – until July 13."
UPDATE, 3:16 p.m.: D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who represents Adams Morgan, sent out a media release on Friday saying that D.C.'s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs will be revising its licensing requirements next week, exempting some businesses from the need to procure second hand business licenses. Graham says the agency has given him "an assurance of no enforcement" pending the change in rules.