Police: permits to get around Tampa panhandling ban won't work

5:47 PM, Oct 19, 2011   |    comments
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Lynn Prince bought a peddler's permit that allows him to sell bottled water.



TAMPA, FLORIDA -- The days of panhandling in Tampa appear to be about over. On Thursday morning, city council is expected to make a final vote on a ban.

But some panhandlers think they may have found a way around it.

Lynn Prince is one of those who doesn't plan to disappear.

He tells 10 News he knew a panhandling ban might be coming, so last month he bought a peddler's permit from Hillsborough County, allowing him to sell bottled water.

In recent weeks, Prince says that's become a growing trend.

"They're kind of following exactly what I started.  I'm kind of like the godfather of bottled water in the county," he said.

For $30 per year, the permit basically turns a panhandler into a water salesman. They buy a 24-pack for about $4, then sell each bottle to drivers for a dollar each.

Charlotte Luke with the Hillsborough County Tax Collector's Office, says they haven't noticed a big increase in peddler's permits, but as long as someone comes in with a name, address, and what's being sold, they get a permit.

"If 50 people come in and say 'I'm selling water on the corner, I need a retail sales license,' we're going to issue you a license," Luke said.

But Tampa police confirm to 10 News that will no longer be allowed once the new ordinance is passed. Officers say the ban will prevent all sales from intersections, even if you have a permit.

It's a big setback for people like Prince, who thought they found a way to stick around.

"If the cops don't like me here, and they give me a hard time, and they try to create a situation, I can just go somewhere else," Prince said.

Police do point out, however, that the ban is only expected to cover six days a week.

Bottled water -- much like newspaper sales -- would still be allowed on Sundays, outside of the city's 10 busiest intersections.

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