***Much more current info about Venice boardwalk selling has been posted by readers towards the bottom of the comments thread for this post- check it out****
There seems to be a real lack of info on the internet about this topic because I get a few emails a month asking for advice about it. Apparently when you Google the words Venice + Beach + Selling a thread from this amazing site called The Switchboards comes up in which I asked folks for advice about selling there..I ended up going and getting a permit and trying it a few times last spring + summer. It was an interesting experience but I wouldnt say it was super profitable for me. There fore I don't do it at all anymore. Be aware that a lot of the stuff sold there these days is mass produced cheap crap and/or totally unoriginal and that brings down the perceived value of everything else sold around it. It just wasn't the right place for what we do- but maybe it will work for you. It's certainly nice to work on your own terms and right next to the beach- so it may be worth a try. Read on and decide for yourself.
1. First you have to get a permit from the Venice Beach Recreation Office, which is located behind the main police station right on the beach/ boardwalk at 1800 Ocean Front Walk. The cross street is Windward and the phone number is (310) 396-6764. Here is a downloadable PDF which explains in a complicated way what I am trying to explain here ..its the official scoop but it was definitely written by a lawyer and therefore pretty unreadable. This also a good link with instruction on applying.
2. When we went there the first time the lady at the office was not so nice and actually totally discouraging..she gave us the paper work though and we decided to come back the next day with examples of our work. The deal is that they want your items that you'll be selling to have a message of some kind - which would be cool if they enforced that at all. They seem to give you a hard time about what you will be selling but then you look around and mainly what you see is imported crap and henna tattoo stands. So- be prepared to show them something handmade or with a message of some kind- have an angle prepared already so when you go you don't have to come back twice, or get turned away.
3. We did get the permit - it's officially called the "Venice Beach Boardwalk Public Expression Permit" - it costs 25 bucks and is valid for one year. The deal is that you have to get your permit into the lottery which is held once a week right in front of the Police station on Tuesday morning. I think at 9 am. Double check that when you go..but the basic idea is that you go and put your permit card ( with your picture on it) and then wait around to see if they call your name. Its totally normal to go for weeks every Tuesday and not even get picked. Keep this in mind if you live far away. I talked to alot of people that had this happen to them, but still they tried because if you do get it, and you have a good day selling it can be very worth it (that's what I've been told anyway)... oh ya- there are 2 drawings that happen on Tuesday- first the weekend drawing- then the week day drawing, both good for the upcoming and following weekend and week. Keep that in mind.
4. If you do get picked then you get to pick out your spot on the boardwalk. Some spots are way better than others. If you have the time it would be good to walk the boardwalk and look at the space numbers painted on the cement. Then you will know what to request when you get picked. Have a few in mind because unless your one of the first you may not get your first choices. Also be aware that if you are selling stuff that you will be getting a I zone permit which is good for only I zone spots. There is also an P zone which is specifially for entertainment acts and donation based ventures. That's a seperate lottery held on the same day.
5.I was kind of intimidated by the scene at first but I found everyone selling down there to be really friendly and helpful. Don't be shy when you are down there to ask for help and advice from the old timers. Be aware of the cop situation however. They seem to stroll the scene pretty often looking for reasons to give tickets. Always have your permit on you and be sure to set up within the assigned area. I've heard of people getting bothered for not having "messages" on their products but I never had a problem with that.
6. If you don't win the lottery one week you can still go and set up in a I zoned spot- as long as its after 12 noon. If the person shows up with the ticket for the spot though you have to move immediately though...so if you have a big set up that could be really annoying. Also- if you are going to do that- go at 11 am at least and scope out the empty spot you want and sit just next to it- but not on it at all- or you could get a ticket. There are many more vendors than spots, especially in the warmer months, so there is definatly competition. So if you are going to squat- get there early for sure.
7. Some things to think about-I strongly suggest investing in a cart of some kind with wheels. Chances are you are going to be having to walk a ways to your car and wheeling your set up is way easier than carrying it. You can also figure out the cross street nearest your spot and drop off your stuff - then go park your car. Still though- get a cart. And remember to bring a tent or umbrella- and sunscreen! Also the food situtation on the boardwalk is pretty lame, and unless you have a friend helping you wont be able to go very far from your booth to get food- so bring good snacks and lots of water to hydrate!
Well, that's about all I can tell you. I think it could be a pretty good situation for certain folks and certain products. There certainly is a huge crowd down there on the weekends when it's warm out. Only you can know if it would possibly be a good match for you. If you think it might be then give it a try! I wish you luck.]]>