El Paso, Texas recently eased regulations against mobile food vendors after four food truck owners represented by litigators at the Institute of Justice filed a lawsuit against the city challenging the constitutionality of the city’s mobile vending restrictions. El Paso ordinances had previously made it illegal for food trucks to be within 1,000 feet of a restaurant or convenience store.
The federal lawsuit of Castaneda v. the City of El Paso asserted that food truck vendors’ constitutional right to “earn an honest living free from unreasonable and arbitrary government interference” was violated. The City of El Paso was stifling competition, a basic principle of capitalism, they said. The Institute of Justice initiated this lawsuit as part of their National Street Vending Initiative to uphold the rights of street vendors everywhere to run their businesses.
“Using government power to place burdensome restrictions on street vendors in order to protect brick-and-mortar businesses from competition is not a valid use of the government’s police power,” said Arif Panju, an attorney at the Institute for Justice Texas Chapter.
El Paso’s food truck vendors can now sell almost anywhere and are now permitted to park curbside during breakfast, lunch, or dinner rush times. Beforehand, they were only allowed to park if customers were already present and had to drive away when no one was flagging them down. “All I want to do is work,” said Maria Robledo, one of the plaintiffs, who has had her food truck business for 13 years in the city. “I am happy that the city is not going to stop me from running my business.”
In most cities, food trucks must pay sales tax, pay fees and obtain permits to be a street vendor, and pass fire department inspections as well as health department inspections. In Austin, Texas, where a thriving food truck scene exists, the city recently tightened its rules, requiring food trucks to even file their truck routes. Food trucks are a booming industry in Austin, with an estimated 1,620 mobile food vendors expected by the end of 2011. The Economist Magazine states the sentiment of consumers is that, “…trucks offer cheap, often innovative dining. They also permit a degree of whimsy that may seem cloying in a restaurant. Trucks will never supplant restaurants. But so long as money remains tight, they will provide a welcome and increasingly prevalent alternative.”
Food trucks dotted throughout the city sell sandwiches, tacos, barbecue, desserts, and even gourmet and rare foods. Nationally, a food truck chef was named one of the best chefs in the U.S. and even food trucks have earned Zagat ratings. Thus, it is no wonder that these businesses are now more likely to seek legal representation to assert their rights.
Austin restaurant attorney and Austin business litigation attorney Gregory D. Jordan has more than 20 years of experience working on behalf of individuals and businesses in the restaurant industry. He represents clients when disputes arise due to financing and loans, equipment leasing, franchise agreements, supply and distribution agreements, intellectual property rights, noncompete agreements, partnership and joint venture agreements, as well as claims against insurers. To learn more, please contact Austin restaurant attorney, Austin business lawyer and Austin business litigation attorney Gregory D. Jordan at http://www.theaustintriallawyer.com or call (512) 419-0684.