Florida City Commissioner (and Restaurant Owner) Wants to Ban All Food Trucks to Protect Restaurants

UPDATE: On January 8, the Sunrise City Commission decided to delay considering any new changes to its food truck laws until its next meeting.

More than 50 food truck owners have banded together to create the South Florida Food Truck Alliance to defend street food vendors from anti-competitive laws and overregulation. The grassroots group is first looking to stop a proposed ban on all food trucks in Sunrise, Florida, a city of 85,000 near Fort Lauderdale. The Sunrise City Commission will meet tonight to discuss the ban.

One of the biggest proponents of a food truck ban is Commissioner Joey Scuotto: “Why would I want to allow a rolling restaurant in my city when we have restaurants here already that struggle every day?” Scuotto also happens to own a pizzeria that’s right down the street from City Hall. Talk about a conflict of interest.

Not only that, he’s also wrong about the impact of food trucks. As the Institute for Justice has shown in its new report, “Seven Myths and Realities about Food Trucks,” allowing more entrepreneurs to open their own businesses creates more wealth for everyone.
In Houston, food trucks have attracted more foot traffic, thereby driving more customers to an area. This has been such a boon to nearby brick-and-mortars that “restaurant owners have asked the Houston City Council to ease existing laws that make it difficult for food trucks to operate.”

On top of that, many brick-and-mortar owners across the country have opened their own mobile eateries to cash in on the food truck phenomenon. Not to mention that food trucks and brick-and-mortars serve different market segments. As Jochen Esser, who organizes food truck rallies in South Florida, points out, “the ambiance is not the same”:

“I disagree with the notion that a food truck is competition to a brick-and-mortar restaurant. If someone wants to sit down in a restaurant and enjoy a glass of wine, I doubt a food truck will change their mind. The ambiance is not the same.”

Plus, according to Justin Pearson, executive director of the Florida chapter of the Institute for Justice, blatant protectionism is “unconstitutional”:

“[I]t is not the government’s job to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. That right belongs to consumers. Rigging the market to protect political insiders is not just bad business, it is unconstitutional. Entrepreneurs have the right to earn an honest living under both the Florida and U.S. constitutions, which do not allow the government to enact anti-competitive laws.”

The Institute for Justice is challenging anti-competitive laws in Hialeah, Florida and Chicago. Thanks to IJ, vendors have won the right to earn a living in El Paso, Texas and most recently in Atlanta. Hopefully Sunrise will join the latter.

Sign up to receive IJ's biweekly digital magazine, Liberty & Law along with breaking updates about our fight to protect the rights of all Americans.