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.

  • Michael Andreason

    LOL, someone actually made it illegal to prosper? Only in America

  • Neil Martin

    Flea markets outlawed for about 60 years? When I hear things like this, it makes me regret even more my recent relocation from the east.

    I’d always heard that the Midwest was behind the times, but I thought the Minneapolis area might be a bit ahead of the norm. Apparently not.


    Thanks Neil. You’ve really added to this topic. We’re happy you’re enjoying Minnesota.


    And there you have another fine reason to appreciate Minnesota. The rampant passive aggressive behavior that masquerades as “Minnesota Nice”. At least he said what he meant, which in this state seems to be as outlawed socially as outdoor markets are outlawed legally…

  • Axel Jensen

    Since when has outdoor flea market been the standard bearer for a 21th century society? I mean it is just people selling things outdoor, and that’s more common in the past before modern construction practices.

    Neil, I’m not sure what you would get by insulting your new home. You could work to make your home better, but insulting and belittle it doesn’t achieve anything. I’m guessing that’s what NEMPLS was trying to relate in his sarcastic tone.

  • P.

    The “no electronics” part should be removed. If anybody finds anything suspicious, they can call the cops. You can find some great electronics at flea markets, My bro-in-law picked up one of those old LED football games from the late 70’s/early 80’s at one on the east coast…

  • Henny

    I remember the Mann France drive-in flea market from the 1970’s, held on Sundays during the summer. For $20(?) anyone could set up and sell. It was a giant garage sale more than a boutique for overpriced antique dealers. The Brooklyin Flea here? Hah! We’d never pay the ridiculous prices.