Under a new ordinance passed by City Council on Feb. 11. Solicitors going door to door must now do so only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday with a blanket prohibition on Sundays and holidays.

Panhandling, defined as asking for money or gifts while offering little or nothing in return, is limited to the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. in residential areas with the same Sunday and holiday restrictions under the same ordinance.

The measure came after residents in the Eighth Ward complained of panhandlers knocking on doors after dark, frightening residents while asking for handouts.

Solicitors, including door-to-door salespeople and those seeking charitable contributions, have long been controversial.

The ordinance presented originally included a 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. window in which solicitors could operate. “I’d like to see it stop at 7 p.m.,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, during the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting. Strangers ringing residents doorbells at 8:30 or 9 p.m. is just “too late.” she said. “I love Girl Scouts, but they shouldn’t be out so late,” she added, referring to the annual sale of Girl Scout cookies.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, took the final step. Because the original ordinance proposed a 9 a.m.-to-6 p.m. window on Saturdays, she suggested the window extend to Monday through Friday as well. The Committee readily agreed.

The ordinance also bans soliciting and panhandling completely if a residence has posted a “no soliciting” sign on the premises. Ald. Rainey suggested that the City post a “model sign” with legally appropriate language on the City’s website for residents to refer when contemplating posting such a sign on their property.
Alderman Peter Braithwaite asked if the soliciting ban extended to politicians seeking signatures on election petitions or other support. “I don’t think that’s covered,” said the City’s Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar. Whether a politician can ask for contributions after 6 p.m. was not discussed.

The ordinance passed unanimously with little discussion and takes effect immediately. Given the average panhandler’s knowledge of City codes, expect an immediate cessation of after-hours panhandling.