Victory

Carolina Beach Food Trucks Roll Over Protectionist Law

IJ continues to build on our string of victories for food truck owners, and our latest win comes from Carolina Beach, North Carolina. Only one week after IJ filed suit challenging the town’s ban on competition, the government capitulated and repealed its unnecessary barrier to earning an honest living.

This came as welcome news to Michelle Rock, IJ client and owner of T’Geaux Boys, a food truck specializing in Cajun cuisine. A Louisiana native and passionate home cook, Michelle was inspired to open her food truck after receiving encouragement from friends and family. But her food truck dreams hit a roadblock when the Carolina Beach Town Council enacted a new ordinance declaring that only local restaurant owners could operate food trucks in the town.

Only one week after IJ filed suit challenging Carolina Beach’s ban on competition, the government capitulated and repealed its unnecessary barrier to earning an honest living.

Carolina Beach’s brick-and-mortar requirement was just the latest in a long list of anticompetitive regulations being imposed on food truck owners across the nation. Often, the protectionism takes the form of an area-wide ban or a prohibition on operating within a certain distance of restaurants. In Carolina Beach, it was a ban on competition from “outsiders.” But regardless of the details of the regulation, the motivation is always the same—protecting politically favored businesses from competition. The mayor of Carolina Beach was clear about the reason for the new law: Government officials “queried local brick-and-mortars, and that’s what they proposed.”

In typical IJ fashion, the lawsuit dominated the local news cycle, with television, print, and online reporters repeatedly emphasizing the harms imposed by the requirement on entrepreneurs and consumers alike.

But the government is not allowed to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. That choice belongs to consumers.

So IJ stepped in on behalf of food truck entrepreneurs and their hungry customers. In late August, we joined with Michelle and her coalition of food truck owners to challenge Carolina Beach’s brick-and-mortar requirement. In typical IJ fashion, the lawsuit dominated the local news cycle, with television, print, and online reporters repeatedly emphasizing the harms the requirement imposed on entrepreneurs and consumers alike.

Embarrassed by the unflattering media coverage generated by the lawsuit, the Town Council repealed the ban only one week later. But it did not stop there. The Council, which consisted of all the same members who passed the protectionist ban just a few months earlier, made an about-face on competition: In addition to removing the brick-and-mortar requirement, it scaled back other food truck regulations too. What’s more, it began designing a plan to further deregulate food trucks and transform the town into a “food truck leader.”

IJ’s speedy and impactful victory is a testament not only to the strength of our legal theory, but also to the reputation we have developed over almost a decade of fighting on behalf of food truck owners. Simply put, when IJ comes to town, local government officials shift gears.

This victory is great news for Michelle and other aspiring entrepreneurs. It also provides a model for future litigation in North Carolina and beyond. But for now, we’re happy to be able to buy one of Michelle’s delicious po’ boys and celebrate a well-earned victory.

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