National Street Vending Initiative

The Institute for Justice's Fight to Legalize Street Vending

IJ client Laura Pekarik is an entrepreneurial dynamo who owns and operates the Cupcakes for Courage food truck. She is challenging Chicago’s restrictive food-truck laws, which make it illegal for a food truck to operate within 200 feet of any fixed business that serves food—including restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores and even gas stations.

Through its National Street Vending Initiative, the Institute for Justice challenges anti-competitive laws that harm street vendors by unconstitutionally restricting their right to earn an honest living. The initiative helps vendors defeat such restrictions by bringing lawsuits in state and federal courts, equipping vendors to fight these restrictions through activism, and educating the public about the social and economic importance of street vending.

In 2015, IJ helped legalize food carts in Chicago and successfully challenged San Antonio’s protectionist laws against food trucks, ultimately leading to the city repealing its 300-foot ban on food trucks vending near brick-and-mortar restaurants. We also published Upwardly Mobile, a survey of licensed vendors in America’s 50 largest cities as well as an in-depth economic case study of New York City’s vending industry.

STREET VENDORS: Does your city have laws that seem designed to keep you from competing with other businesses? Do these laws make it difficult—or even impossible—for you to run your business? If so, we can help. Please e-mail us at

Here, you can check out the initiative’s interactive map about our ongoing and past work in cities across the country, learn the about the experiences of street vendors who are fighting protectionist laws, read our educational publications on street vending and follow newsworthy developments about street-vending laws in cities throughout the United States.


Vending Cities

Recent Cases

  • San Antonio Food Trucks

    Nobody should need their competitors’ permission to operate a business. But for over a decade, the city of San Antonio forced food trucks to do just that. San Antonio banned food trucks from operating within 300 feet of every restaurant, convenience store, and grocer in the city. The law applied whether food trucks were vending…

  • Chicago Food Trucks

    Chicago shouldn’t be in the business of protecting restaurants from food trucks.

  • Hialeah Vending

    Street vendors are a core part of the American Dream. But Hialeah, Fla., needlessly makes it difficult for street vendors to earn an honest living.

See All


  • September 16, 2015    |   Economic Liberty

    When it comes to bad vending laws in the United States, Sarasota County, Fla., takes the cake (and all the other good eats, too). In the world of mobile vending, some local governments enact “proximity bans” that forbid food trucks and carts from operating near brick-and-mortar restaurants. Lawmakers sometimes try to pass these off as…

  • September 16, 2015    |   Economic Liberty

    Esther Ochoa came to the Unites States to escape political persecution in her native Venezuela. Lacking capital and a knowledge of English, she took to selling snacks and candy on the sidewalks of Miami, a common means of earning an honest living. She knew it would be difficult to make her way in her new…

  • January 29, 2014    |   Economic Liberty

    Miami’s laws make it impossible for food trucks to operate outside of special events. The city prohibits trucks from parking in public parking lots and metered and unmetered parking spaces. This seriously hurts the food trucks’ ability to earn an honest living, and is denying Miami’s communities of the many benefits of food trucks. The…


In The News


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