The Kirkwood City Council showed it can, when challenged, summon an adroitness at least distantly reminiscent of that of St. Louis Blues Goalie Jordan Binnington, as he fended off sneaky wraparound shots from behind his net.
In the council’s case, a surprise shot came in the form of petitions to the city from three vendors of sports memorabilia (and perhaps other sundries) who wanted to set up temporary shop in downtown parking lots. The plan was to sell Blues memorabilia to exploit the fan frenzy set off by the team’s recent sky-rocket ascent to the pinnacle of the hockey world.
Petitions for parking lot bazaars often appear before the council and typically are approved with little or no discussion. Not this time.
The thumb in the pie was that several local shops — long-standing and tax-paying establishments in Kirkwood’s downtown — had the same idea as the pop-up vendors, and already had amassed their own inventories of Blues merchandise. They did not relish the prospect of cut-rate competition from parking-lot purveyors of knock-off memorabilia.
“I have concerns with those types of operations that are in direct competition with our brick-and-mortar vendors who have made real investments in our community in a number of ways,” said Council Member Wallace Ward.
Said Chief Administrative Office Russell Hawes, “I would equate it to a fireworks stand.”
The unkindest cut came from Donna Poe, executive director of Kirkwood’s Downtown Special Business District (SBD). She sent a letter to the city that was read by Council Member Ellen Edman.
Several members of the SBD who had invested in Blues merchandise have said they likely would not have purchased such material had they known “that someone who was not invested in the community, and from out of state, was going to sell Blues merchandise from a temporary location” inside the membership area, Poe said.
SBD members pay a special assessment and a special sales tax each year to maintain their membership, and also adhere to special standards regarding the maintenance of their properties. They said they were concerned about the impression created by make-shift kiosks “selling from a tent on a corner,” said Poe.
Poe listed a number of merchants who had invested in Blues memorabilia, ranging from sporting goods stores, to gift shops to the OK Hatchery.
Mayor Tim Griffin immediately sided with the merchants. But he asked if the city would incur any legal risk if it denied the three petitions.
“The mayor asked if the city would encounter issues if it denied these petitions,” said City Attorney John Hessel. “My answer is that there probably would be more issues (for the city) if they were granted, in terms of the precedent set. It was Blues memorabilia this time; velvet Elvis (portraits) next time.”
With that, the council voted down the last of the three petitions.