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Court Rules That Lawsuit Challenging Town’s Food Truck Ban Will Proceed

Sturgeon Bay, Wis. – Today, a judge in Sturgeon Bay denied the Town of Gibraltar’s motion to dismiss a family business’s lawsuit challenging the town’s vending restrictions. The town bans food trucks from operating unless they acquire a town license, which is conditioned on staying out of areas that restaurants operate in, being closed during hours when restaurants are open, and not offering outdoor seating. Prospective vendors Chris Hadraba, Jessica Hadraba, Lisa Howard and Kevin Howard partnered with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to challenge the town’s requirements maintaining that the rules violate their constitutional right to earn an honest living and conflict with state law.

“Politicians shouldn’t be in the business of protecting restaurants from competition,” IJ Attorney Milad Emam said. “That’s not just wrong, it’s unconstitutional. We look forward to vindicating vendors’ right to economic liberty.”

The Hadrabas and Howards filed suit in 2018 after the Town of Gibraltar completely banned mobile vending to stop their food truck. A few days before depositions exposing the ban’s protectionist origins were scheduled to begin, the Town Board replaced its total ban with a de facto ban. The new ordinance made into law a restaurateur’s suggestion to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants from competition by restricting mobile vendors to undesirable areas.

“I hope that the courts find that there’s no good reason to have these requirements,” said Chris Hadraba. “I just want to be able to vend again.”

This case continues IJ’s National Street Vending Initiative, which protects vendors’ rights coast to coast. IJ lawsuits in San AntonioEl Paso and Louisville successfully eliminated protectionist laws that banned food trucks from operating near their brick-and-mortar competitors. IJ continues to litigate against unconstitutional vending barriers in Baltimore and South Padre Island.

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