Mobilizing for Food Truck Freedom
by Christian Burns
When one dreams of growing up and becoming the embodiment of a valiant childhood caricature, many different professions come to mind. As a young person I longed to try my hand at something that would deem me as fearless as those I watched in some of my favorite shows, being rewarded with recognition and accolades and making the impossible possible. Well I’ve grown up (just a bit) and now I realize that that ideal comes into fruition in the form of entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurs are the epitome of pioneers. They can offer radical solutions for antiquated takes on everyday products. They are brave individuals who take risks in order to advance society. For my generation, one of the newest and coolest spins on a traditional service is food trucks, making the world a better place one mobile bite at a time.
Everyday 3 million+ kitchens on wheels hit the streets to win hearts, minds, and stomachs. There are specialty donut joints, paleo beverage trucks, Filipino-American fusion carts, Halal BBQ trailers; literally you dream it, there’s a food truck that is cranking out dishes just like it somewhere. These food vendors are the picture of innovation; presenting readily available, delicious, and eclectic dining options that are coveted by the public. Yet, for some, it is getting harder to achieve their goals. Take Rafael Lopez, owner of El Bandera Jaliso, who was approached by government agents and told to stop operating his food truck or face a fine up to $2000 per day. Rafael was on private property, his food licenses and permits were up to date; the problem was that he needed permission to be there from a restaurant further down the street.
The city of San Antonio has had a law on the books since 1983 that prevents food trucks from operating within 300 ft. of their brick-and-mortar restaurant competitors (that they’re outpacing and out innovating!) There are cities proposing new legislation just like this outdated law precisely to target food trucks. These mobile food vendors, budding entrepreneurs and culinary artists, are being forced to close down or relocate at the whim of their competitors due to this atrocious law! The Institute for Justice is fighting alongside Rafael and three other food truck owners to overturn this law and they have fought other battles similar to this in the Lone Star State.
In a report entitled, Upwardly Mobile: Street Vending and the American Dream, IJ finds that food vending is a vital option for groups who desperately need economic opportunity:
- 96% of vendors own their business
- 51% of vendors are immigrants (with the average immigrant having been in the US for 22 years
- 28% did not complete high school, 63% have no specialized training
- 39% of food vendors are job creators, hiring on average 2.3 full-time and 2.7 part-time workers
Texas prides itself on being a haven for business, a bastion of economic innovation, having policies in place to support a thriving economy, and enabling entrepreneurs to flourish in order to be at the forefront of cutting edge industries and ventures. As a resident of the Alamo City, I urge San Antonio to abandon this law and lead the way in economic liberty for these entrepreneurs in pursuit of prosperity who are offering a product that I’ve personally come to know and love.
Join TMI this Friday (November 20th) for free drinks and discussion at Spider House Café for the “Food Truck Freedom & the Fight for Economic Liberty” Happy Hour, where we will be joined by Arif Panju, attorney at the Institute for Justice that is working on this case, hopefully in celebration of the repeal of this protectionist law.