McHenry, IL, city officials have drafted an amendment to regulate flea markets and are getting ready to vote on an annual $1,400 license fee for operators. A fee this large would drive small businesses out of business, says Carl Eckel, owner of McHenry Flea Market. The city, however, is in talks with both Eckel and the National Flea Market Association (NFMA) to reach an agreement that serves flea market professionals as well as the city of McHenry. “The city feels it is not getting its tax revenue out of the flea markets,” Eckel explains. “I’m asking them to be more considerate on the fees. When we first started talking, they wanted to charge $4 per vendor per day. They would have made approximately an extra $10,000 for the year for my market.” In other Illinois towns, Eckel adds, flea market licenses are generally $30 to $40 per year. “I’ve had a meeting with the city on this and we’re scheduling another one within a week or so. I think the city is willing to listen because this item was on the agenda two weeks ago and they took it off so we could talk further.”
Eckel has owned McHenry Flea Market for just over a year. The 15,000 square foot venue can accommodate 85 vendors, and hosts about 50 right now, Eckel says. In addition to Eckel’s market, the Fox River Flea Market also operates in McHenry. “This year has been going kind of rough,” Eckel shares, and an exorbitant licensing fee could make things rougher for his market and its vendors.
The code amendment, if passed, would take effect in May and require flea market operators to provide proof they have applicable federal and state licenses before receiving a license to operate. Under the proposal, McHenry police will have “general supervision over all flea market operations and shall also have power to inspect their respective places of business.” Police, during normal business hours at the site, would have authority to inspect record books, computers and inventory directly related to the purchases and sale of articles. “Articles which the [police or other law enforcement agency] have reasonable grounds to believe were stolen may be impounded or left with the vendor under a hold order at the discretion of any member of the police department,” the proposal states.
A flea market, according to the city, is defined as “any business activities commonly known as but not limited to swap shops, penny markets, rummage sales, and where tangible articles are bought, sold, or exchanged by more than one vendor, not otherwise regulated in the City of McHenry Municipal Code.”