Minneapolis moves to legalize flea markets

Outdoor flea markets could begin popping up around Minneapolis this summer under a new ordinance approved today by a city council committee.


A man tests out a sofa at a 2010 flea market in Brooklyn. (Creative commons photo by ohonestly10/via Flickr)

The city has outlawed flea markets for about 60 years, requiring that used and vintage items be sold indoors.

Antique dealer Anthony Shane found that out the hard way in 2010 when city inspectors shut down his outdoor market.

“I’d never seen the city move so quickly,” Shane said.

The ordinance approved today in committee would require flea markets to be licensed. It would also ban the sale of electronics in an effort to prevent the markets from becoming a place to fence stolen goods.

Dealers couldn’t traffic in guns or drug paraphernalia, either. Additional rules will be added when the council takes up related changes to the zoning code.

The markets would be devoted mainly to antiques and crafts.

“They encourage the re-use of items. They provide space for people who are collectors of vintage, antique and other reused items, and they help really create part of that sustainable local economy that we need,” said Council Member Gary Schiff, who sponsored the ordinance and is currently running for mayor.

The National Flea Market Association boasts more than $30 billion in annual sales spread across 1,100 markets nationwide. But it’s not clear how much of an economic engine they will become.

St. Paul currently allows flea markets in industrial and some commercial areas. But staff in its Department of Safety and Inspections can’t remember many recent applications.

“There hasn’t been any demand that I know of,” spokesman Robert Humphrey said.