Running a food truck business is hard work. But when one’s ability to run that truck turns on whether a nearby restaurant that sells “similar” food will give you permission to operate, it becomes next to impossible. IJ’s National Street Vending Initiative challenges such anticompetitive laws nationwide because nobody should need their competitors’ permission to operate a business. Our recent victory in Louisville, Kentucky, shows how IJ’s strategic vision plays out in real time.
For years, Louisville made it illegal for food trucks to vend within 150 feet of a restaurant that sold “similar” food without that restaurant’s permission. The ban was pure protectionism, with real consequences for food truck entrepreneurs. It meant that Troy King had to leave his downtown vending location after government inspectors threatened to fine him and tow his Pollo food truck, simply because a nearby restaurant also sold chicken. And after Robert Martin was cited for violating the 150-foot ban, he was forced to abandon his longtime customers and move his food truck, Red’s Comfort Foods, to the Louisville outskirts—or risk losing his vending permit for the crime of serving gourmet hot dogs within 150 feet of a restaurant that serves meat and bread.
In response to IJ’s lawsuit, the Louisville Metro Council repealed the 150-foot ban and agreed that, going forward, it would not treat food trucks differently than other commercial vehicles. The city threw in the towel in part due to another IJ case in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Kentucky. That case, which we won in 2002, was a landmark victory—the first since the New Deal in which a federal appeals court held that economic protectionism is not a legitimate government interest.
IJ’s strategic vision thus paves the way for real-world change. We win for clients like Troy and Robert, all while building a rule of law that protects every American’s right to earn an honest living free from unnecessary government interference. As a result, we have earned a series of victories in appellate courts and ensured that an ever-increasing number of government officials run when IJ comes to town. As our victory count increases, we will prompt even more cities to do the right thing.