Tables, Expressive Vending & Mobile Sales

(T, E & M Permits)

Anyone may exercise the right to freedom of speech on a City sidewalk without a permit, if not blocking traffic or pedestrians or creating a hazard or disturbance, not placing any equipment, and obeying other laws. The City does not require a permit to stand and speak or sing, hand out literature, distribute information, solicit donations for a nonprofit cause, carry a clipboard, seek signatures, or to gather with other people doing the same.

The City does require a permit if you would like to use a table, chair, or other equipment, if your activity involves sales or the promotion of a future sale, or if your gathering is large enough to block traffic or pedestrians.

MGO 9.54(1) prohibits anyone from placing any equipment on a city street, sidewalk or terrace for any reason, without an appropriate permit. MGO 9.13 prohibits sales (vending) of any food, goods or services on streets, sidewalks and terraces without the appropriate street vending license.

The T, E or M Permits might be a good fit for your activity (see below). If you do not see the permit you're looking for, contact the Police Department if you think your activity requires a parade permit, or the Parks Division for a large gathering or special event.
 

Table Permits ("T" Permits)

"T" permits allow the use of a table, chairs, and a container, in a designated "T" site. The table can be used to display or hand out "information about political, philosophical, religious, ideological or any other noncommercial messages or causes, petition for signatures or seek donations for the same." A T permit holder can give away noncommercial items for free (no food), collect signatures, or seek donations. Donations can be requested in exchange for non-food items of nominal value but the item must be available for free, without a donation, otherwise it's considered street vending and not allowed, but the permit holder can limit the number of free items to 1 per day, per person. In regulated areas such as the Mall/Concourse, High Density, and Southeast Campus Vending Areas, T permits are only valid in official "T" sites, established by the Vending Coordinator (see map). In other areas of the city, T permits may be used anywhere that "Basic" Street Vending is allowed under MGO 9.13(4).

Equipment allowed in "T" Sites: 1 table of sturdy construction that fits within the perimeter of the T site, 1 chair 4'x4' sites or 2 chairs in 4'x8' sites, a securely-fastened table cloth or covering, and not more than one (1) container that fits entirely beneath the table. No electrical connection, no attention-getting devices, and no signs are allowed except one 8-1/2 x 14" inch sign, securely fastened to the table, identifying the permittee or its cause. The T site must be attended at all times by the permit holder or another representative of the group holding the permit. T permit holders shall not displace or interfere with a licensed city street vendor or street vending site.

Table with Expressive Vending ("E" Permits)

"E" permits allow the same activities a "T" permit (see above), plus sales of "Expressive Items." "E" permits can only be used in an official "E" site.

An "Expressive Item" is an item "that is inextricably intertwined with a political, philosophical, religious, ideological or other noncommercial message or cause. Examples of expressive items that may be sold in an "E" site include pamphlets, newspapers, books, or other publications; DVDs or other recordings; and bumper stickers, buttons, pins, patches, hats, T-shirts, posters or signs displaying a written noncommercial message. An item is not considered inextricably intertwined with a noncommercial message if the item has an independent function or utility despite the inclusion of the message, except that for purposes of this section, items of apparel such as hats or T-shirts bearing a written noncommercial message may be sold from an E site. An "E" site may not be used for performances or to prepare artwork." In regulated areas such as the Mall/concourse, High Density, and Southeast Campus Vending Areas, E permits are only valid in official "E" Sites, established by the Vending Coordinator as authorized by the VOC (see official map). In other areas of the city, T permits may be used anywhere that "Basic" Street Vending is allowed under MGO 9.13(4).

Equipment Permitted in "E" Sites: 1 table of sturdy construction that fits within the perimeter of the E site, 1 chair 4'x4' sites or 2 chairs in 4'x8' sites, a securely-fastened table cloth or covering, and not more than one (1) container that fits entirely beneath the table. No electrical connection, no attention-getting devices, and no signs are allowed except one 8-1/2 x 14" inch sign, securely fastened to the table, identifying the permittee or its cause. The E site must be attended at all times by the permit holder or another representative of the group holding the permit. E permit holders shall not displace or interfere with a licensed city street vendor or street vending site.

Mobile Sales of Expressive Items ("M" Permits)

An "M" permit authorizes mobile sales of "Expressive Items" only, on foot, with no equipment placed on the ground, no tables,chairs, push cart, etc. The "M" Permit is appropriate for a selling expressive items that a person can transport and carry on their own. Bags or small displays are OK only if they are carried and not displayed on the ground or other city amenity. An "M" permit can be used anywhere in the City, but a person conducting "M" permit sales must stand at least 10 feet away from an occupied vending site, sidewalk cafe, merchant vendor site, or a "T" or "E" permit holder in a "T" or "E" site.

An "Expressive Item" is an item "that is inextricably intertwined with a political, philosophical, religious, ideological or other noncommercial message or cause. Examples of expressive items that may be sold in an "E" site include pamphlets, newspapers, books, or other publications; DVDs or other recordings; and bumper stickers, buttons, pins, patches, hats, T-shirts, posters or signs displaying a written noncommercial message. An item is not considered inextricably intertwined with a noncommercial message if the item has an independent function or utility despite the inclusion of the message, except that for purposes of this section, items of apparel such as hats or T-shirts bearing a written noncommercial message are considered "Expressive Items." In areas of the city that are not regulated vending areas, an M permit holder can be located wherever street vending is authorized under 9.13(4) except there can be no equipment placement with a M permit. See MGO 9.54(12) for details.

 

Table and Expressive Vending Site Maps

You can apply for a Table, Expressive Vending, or Mobile Sales Permit Online or by mail

Apply Online:
The application for this permit can be completed on the City of Madison Licenses & Permits portal.
  • If you do not have one already, you must create an account on the Licenses & Permits portal to fill out the application.
  • Once you login to your account go to the Permitting section, select Apply for a Permit and then choose Vending - Tables (TEM) Permit.
  • Your application will be reviewed only during regular business hours.

GO TO: City of Madison Licenses & Permits portal

 
Apply By Mail:
  1. Complete the Application for Table, Expressive Vending, or Mobile Sales Permit (PDF)
  2. Enclose the appropriate payment amount.

 

Last Updated: 07/10/2013

Contact Warren Hansen, Street Vending Coordinator

  • PH: 608-261-9171
  • FAX: 608-261-6126
  • EMAIL: streetvending@cityofmadison.com
  • MAIL ADDRESS:
    Department of Planning & Community & Economic Development
    Economic Development Division
    Office of Business Resources
    Madison Municipal Building
    215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
    P.O. Box 2985
    Madison WI 53701-2985

Table and Expressive Vending Site Maps (PDF format)