Connecticut Town Mandates Beer on an Empty Stomach

It’s generally well known that you shouldn’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach, but local officials in Ridgefield, Connecticut apparently disagree. Nod Hill Brewery, which serves ample beer but not food, wants to invite food trucks to serve customers in the brewery’s private parking lot. The straightforward idea is to encourage patrons to eat enough delicious food to soak up the alcohol and mitigate public drunkenness.  As the Ridgefield Press reported:

The brewery sells beer, in addition to making it, and Kaye said he wanted people to be able to eat while downing a few product samples. But he’s not interested in running a restaurant. Inviting food trucks to do business in his lot seemed an ideal solution, he said.

But a protectionist local law makes this plan—which would benefit the brewery, food trucks, and customers alike—essentially impossible.

Ridgefield, which revised its mobile vending ordinance in November 2016, mostly prohibits food trucks and other mobile vendors from parking and doing business in a given spot for more than 15 minutes. These regulations even apply to private property, which means a private business like Nod Hill can’t even allow food trucks to operate in the brewery’s private parking lot without running afoul of the law. According to the Press, these economically protectionist food truck rules make it illegal for newcomers to operate at least in part to financially benefit well-connected brick-and-mortar businesses.

Unfortunately, this is hardly the only instance of excessive regulations stymieing fans of food trucks. Police chased a barbecue truck out of Green Cove Springs, Florida in September for the “crime” of feeding victims of Hurricane Irma and offering free lunches to utility workers cleaning up the aftermath. Economic protectionism turned a law meant to encourage food trucks in Myrtle Beach into a blockade that made it virtually impossible for them to operate legally. Food truck operating restrictions in Baltimore and Chicago have likewise made large swaths of those cities “no-vending” zones where trucks are essentially banned from most locations where costumers would actually go.

But contrary to government claims—in Ridgefield and elsewhere—a robust food truck scene helps rather than hurts a city’s restaurant industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that counties with higher growth in mobile-food services also experienced quicker growth in their restaurant and catering businesses. Similarly, the “Seven Myths and Realities about Food Trucks” report from the Institute for Justice (IJ) finds that food trucks increase the number of customers available to restaurants and provide restaurants with a great way to market and expand their business. Food trucks also often serve as incubators for new restaurants, with many successful brick-and-mortars starting off as lower-cost mobile vendors.

IJ is fighting in court to overturn anti-vending laws in Chicago, Baltimore and Louisville as part of its National Street Vending Initiative.

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