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National Street Vending Initiative: Las Vegas, Nev.

Vegas Stacks the Deck Against Food Trucks

In 2012, the Las Vegas City Council approved an ordinance that restricts food trucks from selling within 150 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Much of downtown—and many customers—are now off-limits to food trucks. Fortunately, the council opted to reject the Planning Commission’s recommendation to prohibit Las Vegas’ 125 food trucks from operating within a quarter-mile of their brick-and-mortar competitors.

The council voted 5-1 in favor of the ordinance. Councilman Steve Ross was the lone dissenter, arguing that culinary entrepreneurs “have a constitutional right to go out and earn a living.”

Not all restaurants were in favor of this ordinance, either. Celebrity chef George Harris penned an op-ed calling on brick and mortar restaurants to embrace food trucks.

Download the Institute for Justice’s comments in PDF form

The city hosts over 50 food trucks but only provides four designated parking areas where mobile businesses can vend throughout the day.  Trucks must pay $50 to enter a lottery with long odds of winning the coveted spots.  Those that do not win can park anywhere that is a legal vehicle parking space (and more than 150’ from a restaurant) but can only stay there for 30 minutes.  That’s a short window to get the truck set up, cook for customers, and break down before being on their way again.  Violations can result in a $1000 fine or six months in jail!

There is no rational relation between these rules and public health and safety.


 

In 2014, Street Eats, Safe Eats, an original study by the Institute for Justice, reviewed thousands of food safety inspection reports from food trucks, carts, and restaurants.  The data proved that Las Vegas’ mobile food businesses provided cleaner options than the city’s brick-and-mortar establishments.

Las Vegas Food-safety Violations, 2009-July 2012*

  Average (Mean) Violations   Standard Deviation   Minimum   Maximum
Food Trucks 3.27 4.88 0 31
Restaurants 6.99 6.78 0 89
Carts 2.05 3.62 0 46
Other 4.39 5.08 0 100

*Data provided by the Southern Nevada Health District and based on 494 inspections of 163 food trucks, 42,611 inspections of 8,670 restaurants, 1,993 inspections of 602 carts and 39,718 inspections of other food establishments.

 

Estimated Differences in Food-safety Violations, Las Vegas,
2009-July 2012 (Statistically Significant Results in Italics)*

Average Violations
Compared to
Food Trucks
Rate of Violations
Compared to
Food Trucks
 Average Violations
Compared to
Food Carts
Rate of Violations
Compared to
Food Carts
Restaurants 3.58 more 108% more 4.71 more 237% more
Other 1.09 more 31% more 2.22 more 111% more

*Results listed derived from OLS and Poisson regressions. Full regression results can be found in Appendix B.

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