San Antonio Food Trucks Freed from Ban Called “Not Defensible” by City Attorney

The case is not defensible. I don’t know how else I can say that.

That was how Acting City Attorney Martha Sepeda described a recently repealed ban in San Antonio that prohibited food trucks from operating within 300-feet of restaurants and other brick-and-mortar businesses that sell food, unless they first obtained written permission from each of these brick-and-mortar competitors. In October, the Institute for Justice challenged the city of San Antonio’s 300-foot rule under the Texas Constitution on behalf of four food truck operators.  A month later, the city repealed the law in response to IJ’s lawsuit.

During the city council’s open session, before votes were made, the Acting City Attorney Martha Sepeda stated:

The 300 foot rule is to protect the restaurant and not necessarily in a constitutional way.

After this statement, City Councilman Rey Saldaña pushed Sepeda further on the issue, which led to her statement that the case filed by IJ, and thus the ban itself, was “not defensible.” Shortly after admitting the truth about the case, that the city had no argument to defend the law, Sepeda went even further to describe just what the law was really intended for:

…we looked into what the industry was concerned about back in the 80s when this was first passed. It was considered, and still is, in the law, [a] protectionist kind of provision…

It should not come as too big of a surprise that the provisions were just about protectionism. IJ conducted a study on the current lay of the land for vending laws, and also had a study on recommendations for reforming vending regulations. Cities across the country should take note of San Antonio’s recognition that it is unconstitutional to pick winners and losers in the marketplace.

For more information on IJ’s National Street Vending Initiative please visit: http://ij.org/issues/economic-liberty/vending/

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