Arlington, Va.—The Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, announced that it will hear arguments in a challenge to Baltimore’s restrictive and confusing food truck rules. In 2016, food truck owners Joey Vanoni and Nikki McGowan teamed up with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to strike down the city’s ban on mobile vendors operating within 300 feet of any brick-and-mortar business that primarily sells the same product or service. The rules were declared unconstitutional and unenforceable by the Baltimore Circuit Court in December 2017. That decision was overturned earlier this year by a panel of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which reinstated the rules.
“Baltimore’s confusing 300-foot ban makes it almost impossible for food truck owners to know whether they are breaking the law,” said IJ Senior Attorney Rob Frommer. “Violating the 300-foot ban is a crime, but city officials don’t agree with how to interpret and enforce it. Food truck owners risk their livelihoods every time they serve customers because of this vague, anticompetitive law. We are optimistic that the Court of Appeals will vindicate the rights of our clients and Charm City’s other vendors.”
With the ban now reinstated, vendors caught violating the law—which was passed at the request of the retail business lobby—could be found guilty of a misdemeanor, face $500 in fines and potentially lose their license to vend. Because of the possibly devastating consequences of violations, Joey Vanoni has largely avoided operating his Pizza di Joey food truck in Baltimore, away from prime locations where most potential customers work and live.
Joey said, “I’m relieved that the Court of Appeals will hear our case. Without my food truck, I would not have been afforded the opportunity to get into the food service industry and open my own brick-and-mortar location. I hope the court strikes down this confusing and protectionist rule and gives other food truck owners the same opportunities that led me to where I am today.”
Joey, a Navy veteran, opened the Pizza di Joey food truck in 2014 after returning from Afghanistan. Joey opened the food truck with two missions: to serve the diverse neighborhoods of Baltimore delicious New York-style slices made in a 4,000-pound brick oven and to provide job opportunities for fellow veterans. With his truck allowing him to gain a foothold in the food service industry, Joey is set to open a food stall at Baltimore’s newly reopened Cross Street Market.