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Second-line food vendor trying to pay his rent gets $300 fine for selling food under Claiborne overpass

The economic slowdown has been hard on everyone, including those that make New Orleans what it is.

NEW ORLEANS — Vendors have popped up under the Claiborne overpass for years.

But recently, new signs popped up as well. They read "No vending allowed without the proper permits."

Lorrell Woodfork has worked as a vendor for years at second lines and has the city-issued permits that allowed him to sell food. When he showed up to North Claiborne Avenue and Columbus Street on Saturday to try to earn some money to help pay his rent, a few other people showed up as well.

"Six police cars pull up. They pass me by, and they were waving hello," he said Wednesday. "Then all of a sudden they turned around and said, 'Break it down. We're giving you a $300 ticket.'"

The NOPD said it is targeting the Claiborne underpass because of gatherings that happen there.

"Such gatherings can contribute to potential outbreaks of COVID-19," a statement reads in part. "Vendors without proper permits will be issued summons, ordered to cease business and vacate the area immediately."

It turns out the permits Woodfork has aren't the right kind. He's cleared to sell at second lines -- but nowhere else. Woodfork gets a disability payment each month because of an injury, but there's little left over to pay his $900 rent. Selling food at second-lines helped him cover his bills. Without parades, he said, it's been hard to make ends meet. 

"There was three months I made rent, but partially," he said. Woodfork said he has applied for rental assistance through the city and hopes that will keep him in his house. But, he added, he'll only have one option if he can't make it here.

"If I can't sell food like I've been doing to survive, I would get a U-Haul truck, pack up me and my car, my daughter, we hit the highway," he said.

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