Matthew Prensky
Matthew Prensky · November 2, 2023

ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) sent a letter to town officials in Parksley, Virginia, calling on them to repeal a near-total ban on food trucks. The ban violates the constitutional rights of small business owners and harms the public safety and local economy of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. 

Parksley’s Town Council passed an ordinance last month banning food trucks from operating within town limits on a permanent basis. The law only allows food trucks to operate in Parksley during festivals or other special events, and vendors must pay a $30 permit fee for each event they want to attend. Otherwise, food trucks are prohibited. 

“Parksley’s Town Council didn’t do its homework,” said IJ Senior Attorney Justin Pearson. “The research is clear that food trucks help brick-and-mortar businesses, including restaurants, by attracting more customers to an area. If Parksley’s Town Council really wanted to help restaurants, it would be encouraging food trucks, not banning them.” 

IJ has established through more than a decade of research that food trucks positively impact local economies. In two separate studies from 2011 and 2012, for instance, IJ found that food trucks can help create jobs, improve public safety, revitalize underused public spaces, and generate sales taxes and permit fee revenue for municipalities. Another IJ study concluded that growth in the number of food trucks often goes hand in hand with growth in the brick-and-mortar restaurant industry. 

Moreover, Parksley’s food truck restrictions are discriminatory and violate both the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions. The town is effectively banning one group of law-abiding small business owners from selling food while allowing another group of business owners to do the same thing. But the government isn’t allowed to abuse the rights of one community to protect the bottom lines of its most powerful members. 

“It’s not the government’s job to pick winners and losers in the marketplace,” said IJ Litigation Fellow Dylan Moore. “That choice belongs to consumers.” 

IJ has a long history of fighting to protect the right to earn an honest living, including winning two different U.S. Supreme Court cases on the subject. And as part of its National Street Vending Initiative, IJ has defeated dozens of anti-competitive laws that harm street vendors and food trucks, including victories in North Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky, among others.

About the Institute for Justice

Through strategic litigation, training, communication, activism, legislative outreach and research, the Institute for Justice advances a rule of law under which individuals can control their destinies as free and responsible members of society. IJ litigates to secure economic liberty, educational choice, private property rights, freedom of speech and other vital individual liberties, and to restore constitutional limits on the power of government.

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