In all the excitement of NBA All-Star Weekend in February, many groups and companies organized events to attract the attention of the estimated 125,000 visitors to Utah.
One such event was the All-Star Bazaar, billed as a showcase for about 50 black-owned businesses, along with a pop-up black art gallery and black history exhibits and a wax museum.
The bazaar did not turn out as the organizers and traders had hoped. Some of those vendors said they were out thousands of dollars, and the organizer said the permitting process shows a lack of access and resources for minority-owned businesses.
Here are five takeaways from what happened. (For the full account, read here.)
1. All-Star Bazaar changed locations at the last minute due to issues with permit documents.
The plan was to hold the All-Star Bazaar at Library Square, at 400 South and 200 East in Salt Lake City. But early Friday, Feb. 17 — the bazaar’s first day — vendors were notified by email that the event would move to the Utah State Fairpark, at 1000 W. North Temple.
The last-minute location change stemmed from issues with permitting documents, according to Andrew Wittenberg, director of communications for Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.
“After missing significant deadlines leading up to the event date, city officials met with organizers several times over a 10-day period leading up to All-Star Weekend in hopes of getting their event approved at their desired location.” , Wittenberg wrote in an email to The Tribune. “Unfortunately, many pieces of required information were not provided.”
2. Local vendors lost thousands of dollars because of the change.
Rudy Salvatore, chef and owner of Utah’s Makaya Caters, a Haitian food truck, said the figures involved in the All-Star Bazaar cost him more than $7,000.
Anticipating large crowds, Salvatore said, he washed his food truck and bought more than 600 pounds of meat. He also rented another food truck to two other vendors, Yvonne Nsabimana (of Ngoma Y’Africa) and Michael Martial (a poet and chef), as well as several other African American immigrants and black women, under the name Taste the Culture.
“What we [were] The expectation is that people will be all over the center looking for things to do and the marketing of [the bazaar] will drive people there,” Salvatore said.
Salvatore said he made a total of $105 in sales on Friday and that activity was so low that he did not return on Saturday or Sunday.
3. Email exchanges between the organizer and government officials show the timeline behind the process.
Thursday, January 26 • Cleopatra Balfour, the bazaar’s organizer, and Ryan Schlegel, special events permit manager for Salt Lake City, were first contacted to discuss permits for the bazaar.
Monday, February 6 • A Balfour aide contacted Schlegel at 1 p.m. to discuss the ADA plan as part of the permitting process. The aide said the city’s online portal for ADA information “currently fills out an inactive Google form, not the official application.” Later that evening, Schlegel wrote in an email to Balfour and her assistant that the city had not received the site map information it expected a week earlier — and could not issue a final permit without “all approvals.”
Wednesday, February 8 • Schlegel sent a second email to Balfour and her assistant, writing: “We need proof of completion of all listed requirements by Monday, 02/13/2023, before 5:00 p.m. Failure to receive completed items by this time may jeopardize obtaining a final permit.” Schlegel also provided a link to access the city’s online permit portal.
Wednesday, February 15 • A day before vendors were expected to begin, Balfour sent a mass email to officials saying the All-Star Bazaar would be a “spontaneous event” that “is exempt from special event permitting.”
Thursday, February 16 • In several emails to Balfour’s group, Kim Chitraus, a senior attorney in Salt Lake City, said the bazaar is “not a spontaneous event” and structures and equipment cannot be installed without a special events permit — and violations of that rule can lead to a crime. At noon, Chitraus asked the group to remove the concrete blocks from the library plaza.
Read here for the full timeline, based on public records obtained by The Tribune.
4. Balfour said the permitting issues point to a lack of access by minority communities to city property and resources.
Especially those not in “multi-million dollar companies” but voluntary organizations like her group, she said. For large companies, she said, it’s easier to change and fix problems that pop up.
“There’s nothing built in for equal access to these city properties,” she said.
Balfour said what happened with the bazaar permits was not down to one branch or department.
“There were so many different departments in the city that ended up creating a systemic problem that blocked access for [the] minority community at a time when it really needed to be promoted,” she said.
5. Efforts are made to help the business recoup its losses.
The Utah Black Chamber of Commerce is hosting a series of retail experiences at Zions Bank Eagle Emporium in Salt Lake City. Cindy Shorter, chamber president, said the first weekend was a success.
“As far as the chamber is concerned, we saw a need in the community and activated an opportunity with the help of chamber member Zions Bank,” she said in an email.
While the permitting process can be time-consuming, especially for minority businesses, Wittenberg said the city’s Economic Development Board and Mendenhall’s office are also interested in working with affected vendors and businesses — whether through future events or by give tools to understand “what they need to know for an event to be authentic and approved.”