National Street Vending Initiative: New Jersey

It’s tough to be a food-truck entrepreneur in New Jersey. Anti-competitive and burdensome laws make it nearly impossible to operate in many cities. Many of the laws are passed at the behest of Jersey’s brick-and-mortar restaurants, who do not want competition from inventive chefs and they’ll use every advantage to keep them out – including burdensome regulations. That’s called protectionism. It’s unconstitutional and un-American.

Carlos Serrano is known around the Garden State as the Empanada Guy for his fleet of bright red trucks that serve the stuffed pastries. When Serrano wanted to move one of his trucks into Toms River he ran into a 40-year-old law that requires mobile vendors to move every 30 minutes. That’s hardly enough time for a restaurant on wheels to set up, heat up, serve up, and pack up. Upon Serrano’s request the town council agreed to look into changing the rule, but local restaurant owners were quick to defend it, complaining the food trucks’ innovative business model was “unfair.” The Empanada Guy correctly retorts “Those that complain are forgetting the founding principle of free enterprise…If you have a restaurant and you are terrified of a food truck, you shouldn’t be in the restaurant business.”

The Institute for Justice has teamed up with the New Jersey Food Truck Association (NJFTA), a group of more than 60 food truck owners, to change the Garden State’s regulations on food trucks. Restrictions vary from city to city and member trucks hail from all over the state. The association has prioritized three cities in which to push for open-market reforms: Elizabeth, Montclair and Morristown. (Click the links to tell your city councils to free the food trucks.)

If your city has laws that make it difficult for food trucks to operate, report abuse here.