A woman has been setting up a card table and a cooler in front of St. Armands Circle restaurants and businesses, soliciting donations for Haitian children and their families since October.
The St. Armands Business Improvement District (BID) and Circle merchants have a big problem with that, especially since merchants that pay $1,500 a month or more to lease Circle space get hit with a fine from the city if they make a homemade sign or solicit their business in store windows or directly outside their shops.
The woman, who couldn’t be reached for comment and was not on the Circle Tuesday due to inclement weather, has told Circle merchants and St. Armands Circle Executive Director Diana Corrigan she has a permit to solicit donations.
Corrigan said the woman has been asked to move away from the front of businesses. The woman has told merchants she has a permit and is being harassed because of the color of her skin if she’s approached, Corrigan said.
But at a BID Board of Directors meeting Tuesday at Sarasota City Hall, Director of Neighborhood and Development Services Tim Litchet informed board members the woman doesn’t have a permit and has been turned down on several occasions for such a permit.
But two Sarasota Police officers present at the meeting told board members they must confer with city attorney Robert Fournier this week before approaching the woman. The police want a legal opinion on whether or not her requested removal from the Circle infringes on her First Amendment rights.
For more information, pick up a copy of this week's Longboat Observer and Sarasota Observer.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org.