The administration of Mayor Adrian Fenty closed a portion of 7th Street SE to accommodate vendors after a fire at Eastern Market in 2007.

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Indoors versus outdoors. It’s a debate as old as Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Yglesias. And now it’s creating a schism at Eastern Market.

Some vendors inside the market are concerned that the closure of a section of 7th Street SE on weekends to accommodate outdoor vendors is hurting the business of the indoor vendors. Customers, they argue, have to park several blocks away, creating a disincentive to visit the market for their food shopping. So they’ve crafted a proposal to re-open the street on Saturdays, increasing the supply of nearby parking at the expense of perhaps a few dozen vendor stands on the street.

Bill Glasgow, who runs Union Meats and serves as the indoor vendors’ delegate to the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee, says weekends account for 70 percent of vendors’ sales, but that business drops off considerably on rainy days because people can’t park close enough to the market. “The bottom line is, when is enough enough?” he says. “We’d like to at least have it open on Saturday so customers can pick up their meat without walking three or four blocks.”

Needless to say, the proposal has not gone over well among the outdoor vendors.

Erika Rubel sells wall art outside the market and represents non-food vendors on EMCAC. She says the change wouldn’t create much new parking, but would prevent about 30 vendors from operating. “A substantial portion of people would be put out of business,” she says.

Glasgow counters that there are more than 200 vendors, and given the high turnover among them, the loss of 30 wouldn’t make a big difference. He’d like a system, he says, that’s more like 7-Eleven, where customers can park briefly to pick up their groceries. “I think it’s a pretty good compromise to open on Saturdays and keep it closed on Sundays for the vendors,” he says.

The proposal to re-open 7th Street, first reported on the Capitol Hill Corner blog, is still just a proposal. Glasgow isn’t sure what the next step is; for the proposal to move forward, EMCAC would likely have to approve it and petition the city to make the change. Which won’t happen if the outdoor vendors have anything to say about it.

Photo by Arthur Delaney