Dan King
Dan King · August 17, 2022

DENVER—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) sent a letter to the city of Denver, demanding city officials repeal the temporary ban of food trucks on Lower Downtown streets. 

The ban was put into place by city officials in late July with the goal of stopping crime and to “curb large gatherings” after downtown bars close. Although the city claims that crowds getting food from the trucks are more susceptible to crime, research contradicts those concerns. A 2012 study, conducted by IJ, found that food trucks actually “serve as ‘eyes on the street’ and make the street a safer, more enjoyable place to visit. Their presence can help prevent crime and revitalize underused public spaces.”  

“Food trucks do not lead to increases in crime,” said IJ Senior Attorney Justin Pearson, one of the letter’s authors. “The city’s misguided ban will cripple these small businesses and reduce consumer choice, all while doing absolutely nothing to address the issue of crime on busy streets.” 

Understandably, food truck operators in Lower Downtown are outraged. As food truck operator Mohammad Alissa told 9 News Denver, “It affects us big time, this is our life, our income. If some bad guy has a gun and goes to the area, we are not responsible for the gun. We are just selling gyros, tacos, pizza.” 

And while the city is shutting down food trucks, it is allowing other businesses that draw large crowds, such as bars and brick-and-mortar restaurants, to continue operating. 

“Denver’s selective ban in LoDo smacks of protectionism,” said IJ Senior Attorney Robert Frommer. “The city is shutting down vendors while allowing brick-and-mortars to continue operating. This suggests that the city’s actions have more to do with squelching competition than protecting public safety.”  

The urge to protect restaurants from food truck competition isn’t just unconstitutional; it’s also bad public policy. Earlier this year, IJ released a report called “Food Truck Truth,” which looked at 12 years of detailed county-level census data. It found that “the number of food trucks in one year has no effect on the number of restaurants in the next year,” meaning that more food trucks don’t lead to fewer restaurants. If anything, the data show that food trucks appear to complement restaurants as both industries grow side by side. 

Through its National Street Vending Initiative, IJ has stood up for the rights of food truck operators against harmful laws that prevent them from earning an honest living. IJ has won lawsuits against similar food truck regulations, including a law in San Antonio that prevented food trucks from operating within 300 feet of an established restaurant, and one in Louisville that barred food trucks within 150 feet of restaurants.