South Florida Entrepreneurs & New Florida Public Interest Law Firm Sue City of Hialeah to End Unconstitutional Regulations

John Kramer
John Kramer · October 12, 2011

Miami, Fla.— Street vendors in Hialeah, Fla., have had enough of the city’s effort to drive them out of business in order to protect brick-and-mortar businesses from competition. Today, they joined with the newly launched Institute for Justice Florida Chapter to file a state constitutional lawsuit against the city of Hialeah with the aim of vindicating the entrepreneurs’ right to economic liberty.

Brief Video on Today’s Lawsuit:
Online Media Kit:

Under the Florida Constitution, vendors, like all other citizens, have a constitutional right to earn an honest living without unreasonable government interference. The government cannot arbitrarily use its power to protect politically powerful private businesses—such as brick-and-mortar stores—from competition. Yet that is exactly what the city of Hialeah is doing with its vending laws.

In Hialeah, it is legal to be a street vendor, but the city makes it impossible to be an effective street vendor. Hialeah forbids vendors from selling within a football field of a brick-and-mortar store that sells the “same or similar merchandise”—an arbitrary standard that invites abuse. The city forces vendors to remain in constant motion when they would much rather stay put, sell and be safe. Vendors are even prohibited from displaying their merchandise on the ground on private property, where vendors operate with the permission of the property owner.

“You would think in these tough economic times, a city like Hialeah would do all it could to encourage entrepreneurship,” said IJ Florida Chapter Executive Director Elizabeth Foley. “Instead, Hialeah, like too many cities across Florida, is imposing unconstitutional restrictions on individuals’ right to earn an honest living. This lawsuit puts Hialeah and every other city in the state on notice that this will no longer be tolerated. Under the Florida Constitution, everyone is equal before the law and we all have inalienable rights to be rewarded for industry. Those are some of the rights this lawsuit will vindicate.”

“Street vendors sell countless varieties of goods in the city through an industry that helps us provide jobs for lots of people, while providing a better service to the public,” said IJ client Silvio Membreno. “We’re not asking for a hand out; we’re not asking for any kind of special benefit. Instead we are fighting for people who more often than not are unemployed, who have nothing to eat at home, who by selling a flower can bring food home for their families. This is about being able to earn a living by providing a service. That’s how we see it.”

Foley said, “Street vending provides a perfect way for people of modest means to enter the American economic mainstream because vending doesn’t require a great deal of financial capital or formal education to succeed. You just need a good product and a good work ethic.”

Membreno continued, “We are not doing anything wrong. We pay taxes, too, and on top of that, we’re under the sun and in the rain. Just because we’re not in a storefront doesn’t mean we’re doing something wrong. It just means we have to work harder.”