CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A flea market that's been a staple in East Charlotte for years is no longer allowed to operate in the same parking lot and for now, it has nowhere to go.
On Monday, dozens of vendors and shoppers held signs and protested outside the government center in Uptown, asking city leaders for a solution.
Vendor Jorge Castaneda explained how the market was abruptly shut down on Friday as they were setting up for the weekend market.
He said police and a representative from the City of Charlotte shut the flea market down.
The City of Charlotte said they've given a license to vendors to have the market at the Eastland site for years.
It allows the vendors to use the site to earn a living and allows the city to gain some use out of what would otherwise be vacant and unused city property, a city spokesperson said.
However, toward the end of 2021, the license expired and the city notified the market operator that a renewal would not be possible, according to city staff.
For the last few months, vendors had been operating at the site without permission or a license.
With construction on a new development set to start soon, the city shut down the market so the space can be cleared and prepped for the start of construction.
WCNC Charlotte also learned in January, a vendor was allegedly selling guns illegally at the market and was arrested.
WCNC Charlotte is also told Mecklenburg County's Health Department was concerned over some vendors selling food without the proper licenses or permits.
Castaneda said he understood they no longer had permission nor owned the land, but wanted to continue its partnership with the city and move to another location.
He believes it is another example of the city putting new development over the desires of the people.
"We're asking for a place to sell," Castaneda said. "Every time we ask for something, it's like nobody wants to listen to us."
However, there's no suitable city-owned land where the market can continue to operate, according to a city spokesperson. It’s up to the operator or vendors to find their next location.