City officials concerned about fan safety yesterday restricted street vendors from hawking food and merchandise at two spots outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards, a move that drew a venomous response from the pushcart entrepreneurs.
But as night fell over the stadium, the city's Department of Public Works announced that a compromise had been forged that will allow vendor access without interfering with fan traffic on a portion of Camden Street and a slice of Howard Street near the light rail line.
Under the compromise, merchants will be prohibited at the light rail stop, but will be allowed in front of the Camden Street train station, provided they stay within a certain area, have mobile vending carts and operate in an orderly fashion, said George Balog, director of the city's Public Works Department.
"It's just that we don't want our fans to face the potential of getting hit by a bus or some other vehicle on their way to or from the stadium," said Joe Foss, the Orioles' vice chairman.
City officials, the Maryland Stadium Authority and the Orioles said the move to restrict the merchants -- two days before Opening Day -- was necessary to prevent injuries to the crush of pedestrians that get snarled traveling to the ballpark.
While city officials could not provide statistics on injuries, some merchants selling food before yesterday's lone exhibition game at the ballpark this spring acknowledged that vendors are often stacked close to one another and could be better regulated.
Jeff Welsh, owner of a peanut stand and the president of a Camden Yards vending association, said cities such as Seattle and San Francisco have dealt with safety effectively by creating "mall areas" for vendors to operate.
But most vendors said the decision to push them farther away from Oriole Park was intended to cripple or shut down their businesses.
"It's really going to affect our income," said Christine Ward, from a cart selling hot dogs, peanuts and sodas at Conway and Sharp streets. "It's not fair to all the people who are simply trying to make a living like everyone else."
Ward, between shouts of "It's cheaper on the outside" to passing fans and potential customers, said the issue was not one of safety, but money.
"The stadium authority and [Orioles majority owner Peter G.] Angelos are trying to close down all the street vending, because they say they're not making enough money in the stadium," she said.
Street vendors typically undercut the prices of items sold inside the stadium. All stadium concessions are provided by Aramark, a food service company that operates under a contract with the team and the state.
"Don't be fooled: This isn't about anything but money, and the big guys trying to hurt the little guys," agreed Bob Giles, owner of Original Big Dogs' Grill, which sells hot dogs and other charbroiled food.
But Angelos strongly disagreed that money was anything but an ancillary factor behind the changes.
"If I was so concerned about money I wouldn't be the majority owner of the Orioles," Angelos said. "There would be other places I could put that money. I support the city's decision."
Not all the vendors were willing to blame Angelos or the city. "Over the years, we've had a progression of illegitimate vendors who have caused problems," said Welsh, who was forced to vacate his spot at Eutaw and Camden streets yesterday.
Pub Date: 3/30/98