Baltimore County at Crossroads over Food Trucks

Baltimore County may soon pass on an opportunity for greater economic growth and freedom—and delicious, innovative meal options.  The Baltimore Sun reports that new regulations are being proposed that would increase the minimum distance a food truck must park from a brick-and-mortar restaurant from 100 feet to 300 feet.  Municipalities nationwide use laws like proximity restrictions to protect one group of businesses from the competition of newer, smaller entrepreneurs—but don’t underestimate these restaurants on wheels.  They are organizing and fighting back for their right to earn an honest living.

Instead of increasing its proximity restriction, Baltimore County should eliminate it altogether.  Not only do these types of anti-competitive restrictions hurt small businesses — whom cities and counties should be embracing in these still-difficult economic times--but they are also unconstitutional and regularly struck down by courts.  Some cities that have enacted protectionist and anti-competitive measures like these have even faced litigation

Arbitrary and unconstitutional regulations don’t only harm food trucks—they may rob restaurants of new foot traffic generated by these mobile entrepreneurs.  The Institute for Justice’s Seven Myths and Realities about Food Tucks points out that the presence of food trucks actually improves the restaurant culture of cities.  Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Austin, Houston, and Las Vegas restaurant owners have reported increased business coinciding with the presence of food trucks, while their counterparts in New York and Chicago have complained that they experienced lower revenue as a result of food truck regulation.  The boon provided to restaurants is a result of more hungry people being drawn outside, seeing what their communities have to offer, and patronizing whichever establishment best suits their interests — or their appetites. 

Cities and counties should embrace the presence of innovative and hardworking business owners.  Baltimore County should take this opportunity to craft better laws that provide all entrepreneurs the opportunity to succeed, and allow the food trucks to keep on rolling. 

-- Garrett Atherton

Garrett Atherton is the Outreach Coordinator at the Institute for Justice

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