Smiling Faces, Beautiful Food Trucks

Beachgoers flocking to Myrtle Beach’s palm trees, sunny shores, and Southern hospitality might soon have another reason to enjoy the resort city’s sandy beaches: food trucks.

A proposed zoning code amendment to the Myrtle Beach Planning Commission could allow food trucks to operate in certain districts around the city where they are currently banned. The measure, which has not yet been agreed upon, aims to build on the success of the first Myrtle Beach Food Truck Festival, which happened in early April.

City officials are reportedly looking to the model of Horry County, which contains Myrtle Beach, for inspiration. County law allows food trucks on privately owned properties like parking lots. The planning commission’s proposal, if implemented, would be a step in the right direction, but it’s far from perfect. The amendment would maintain the city’s ban on food trucks legally parking and operating on right-of-way streets, street ends or beach accesses, which would limit local business owners’ ability to reach potential clients.

Myrtle Beach’s ongoing push to encourage a growing food truck scene has some encouraging if unusual allies: local restaurants. The Bondfire Restaurant Group—which owns five brick-and-mortar restaurants throughout the city—has expressed support for reform. In a refreshing contrast to protectionist restauranteurs elsewhere, Bondfire media manager Becky Billingsley told Myrtle Beach Online, “We are all for food trucks. The more the merrier. We don’t see them as competition.”

But in other cities—like Chicago, Baltimore and Louisville— politically-connected insiders have undermined the local food truck scene through onerous regulations designed to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants from healthy competition. The Institute for Justice (IJ) is fighting in court to overturn these restrictions as part of its National Street Vending Initiative to protect the rights of food truck owners and other street vendors across the country. IJ lawsuits on behalf of food trucks in Texas have already lead to the repeal of protectionist laws in San Antonio and El Paso  that banned food trucks from operating near restaurants or convenience stores.

Myrtle Beach officials should promote a more vibrant local food scene by cutting red tape that unnecessarily burdens food trucks. Allowing local entrepreneurs to provide residents and visitors with conveniently delicious, affordable food will mean more jobs and opportunities for everyone.

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