During times of natural disasters, communities and local businesses come together to provide much needed necessities to one another. In Green Cove Springs, Florida, Jack Roundtree, owner of the Triple J BBQ food truck, decided to set up shop in front of a restaurant to provide lunch to hungry residents and workers cleaning up in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. For Roundtree, who had operated Triple J BBQ in Green Cove Springs at city-sponsored events in the past, it was an opportunity to provide a much-needed service to residents and those who were hard at work to get the town back up and running. In fact, he was offering utility workers free lunches for all their hard work. And with nearly all of the town’s restaurants closed down due to the storm, he was needed more than ever. But instead of serving lunch, the police ordered Roundtree to shut down Triple J and leave town. His crime? Operating without a permit.
According to Clay Today:
“It was interesting to learn that Roundtree and his truck were encouraged to serve customers during Green Cove’s monthly Saturday-in-the-Park event without a permit, but during Irma’s aftermath, not so much.
“Had Roundtree decided to press his case at City Hall, he would have been greeted with a sign that read: ‘Due to Hurricane Irma, City Hall offices and services will re-open on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017.’”
Roundtree wouldn’t be able to obtain a permit even if he tried. Green Cove Springs isn’t the only city to force food trucks to jump through ridiculous hoops. Cities across the country often impose strict regulations that make it nearly impossible for food trucks to operate. In 2011, IJ launched its National Street Vending Initiative to fight these laws.
In Baltimore, the Institute for Justice (IJ) is challenging a ban on food trucks parking within 300-foot of a brick-and-mortar business that sells the same type of food. In Chicago, IJ is challenging regulations that bans food trucks from operating within 200 feet of a brick-and-mortar business serving food and forces them to install GPS tracking devices that broadcast their every move. And IJ is challenging a Louisville, Kentucky, law banning food trucks from operating within 150 feet of any restaurant selling similar food.
It is not only during times of crisis that food trucks contribute to their communities. According to IJ’s report Streets of Dreams mobile vending businesses help people escape poverty and unemployment through affordable start-up costs which creates the initial economic opportunity for upward mobility. IJ’s report, Seven Myths and Realities found the presence of food trucks can actually help local restaurant industries by attracting new customers and serving as incubators for new restaurants. Cities should embrace food trucks and liberate them from onerous regulations so they can enjoy the benefits these businesses bring.