Food truck vendors sue city over ban against operating within 300 feet of restaurant

Food truck vendors sue city over ban against operating within 300 feet of restaurant

Competition may be at the heart of free enterprise, but in San Antonio, there’s only room for one bite of the consumer dollars. A restriction barring food trucks from operating within 300 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant or face a $2,000-a-day fine has vendors up in arms. Claiming that the restriction is unconstitutional, the truckers are taking the city to court.

“San Antonio should be encouraging small-business owners like us, not trying to hurt our food truck businesses by playing favorites,” said food trucker Ricardo Quintanilla.

The vendors’ lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Bexar County District Court, follows a successful challenge to a similar law in El Paso.

San Antonio’s ordinance applies to food trucks on private property that they own or lease, as well as to those using public parking spaces.

“No one should need their competitors’ permission to run a business,” said Institute for Justice attorney Arif Panju, lead counsel for the food truck operators. Panju added:

We wouldn’t expect a mom-and-pop hardware store to get permission from Home Depot to open down the street, and, for the same reason, we shouldn’t expect food truck owners to have to get permission from restaurants.

The 300-foot rule does nothing to help consumers. It is used to help restaurants eliminate their food-truck competition.

Seeking a permanent injunction against the city, the IJ complaint cites the Texas Constitution’s “substantive due course of law” guarantee, which Panju describes as “the right to earn an honest living in the occupation of one’s choice free from unreasonable governmental interference.”

Jeff Coyle, San Antonio’s director of government and public affairs, said in a statement:

The city has a long-standing policy of regulating the mobile food industry. The codes reflect a balance of interests between various sectors of the food industry and the public in an effort to maintain cooperation and communication, as well as to provide a safe environment for mobile food sales.

Jon Lindskog, vice president of the San Antonio Food Truck Association, said, “None of our members have had a problem with the ordinance.”

“Enforcement only happens if someone complains, and not many restaurants have complained,” he told Watchdog.org. “The city isn’t driving around looking for violators.”

Lindskog, who owns a restaurant and two food trucks, said the association is taking no position on the lawsuit.

“No one in our association has been cited, and no one has been shut down. There’s enough business for everybody,” he said.

Read more by Kenric Ward at Watchdog.com.

 

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent and writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Formerly a reporter and editor at two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Kenric has won dozens of state and national news awards for investigative articles. His most recent book is “Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.”


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