NEW ORLEANS - Jazz Fest draws thousands of people to New Orleans for music, food, and culture. But, it also draws unlicensed vendors on whom the city wants to crack down.
Harold Raines says he helps festival goers cool down while making some cold hard cash. He rakes in thousands of dollars each year selling water bottles for $1 outside the Fair Grounds during Jazz Fest.
“I'm a Mardi Gras Indian, so I come out and sell my water and that's what helps me build my suit for the upcoming year so it helps me a lot,” said Raines.
Raines, like many others who sell water, soda, or food out of rolling ice chests near the Fair Grounds during Jazz Fest, is a native New Orleanian with roots in the neighborhood.
The problem? Raines, like dozens of others, is operating without a permit. And the city says it will "aggressively enforce rules against transient vendors from improperly selling their products within the festival’s clean zone,” according to a press release from the Mayor’s office Wednesday.
The “clean zone” is bounded by Bayou St. John, N. Broad Street, Florida Avenue and Esplanade Avenue.
“We're not doing no wrong, we're just selling water,” said Raines. “We're not harming anybody.”
Parking spots also go for top dollar during Jazz Fest.
Many residents sell parking spaces on their property. But city code mandates, only commercially zoned properties can charge for parking, as long as they have a $265 permit. Non profits can get a permit for $30.
“I think it's ridiculous because if you own your own land you should be able to do what you want,” said Jeroline Bowden, who charges $30 per parking space on a lot she owns lot near Fair Grounds.
City officials say they'll enforce the rules, but any crackdown will focus more on large scale commercial lots that are operating without a permit, rather than smaller residential lots.
Mike Ernst is the only resident we found who actually has a permit to charge for parking. He says the $265 and lengthy process at City Hall was worth it.
“It's about doing what I have to do, and we got this and we'll conform,” said Ernst. “We’ll have a good time, we'll help some people out and we'll help keep the house for my mom.”
Ernst said the money he makes operating a paid parking lot on his mother’s property over the two weekends of Jazz Fest helps to pay for his mother’s property taxes and insurance while she is in a nursing home.
Meanwhile, those like Raines haven't seen the rules enforced yet this year- at least not for makeshift paid parking lots or small vendors.
“It's all good the cops don't worry about it,” said Raines. “They actually come buy water.”
A city spokesman said police are not the only ones monitoring vendors near the Fair Grounds. Officials from the Department of Revenue do so as well.