Matthew Prensky
Matthew Prensky · November 7, 2023

ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) sent a letter to local officials in Mount Vernon, Ohio, calling on the city to reconsider potential food truck regulations. In its letter, IJ argues food trucks help all brick-and-mortar businesses, including restaurants, and by restricting them, the city of Mount Vernon would not only hurt its local economy but also violate the Constitution in the process. 

The Mount Vernon City Council has been discussing potential food truck regulations at the request of Councilmember Mike Hillier, who has openly stated that his goal is to “protect restaurants” from competition from food trucks. 

But the entire notion that restaurants need to be protected from competition from food trucks is incorrect. Years of research show food trucks prove no danger to the survival of restaurants. In fact, IJ research found food trucks may complement the restaurant industry. One reason is the way in which food trucks tend to attract customers from outside an area into the community. For this reason, many more cities around the nation have become more welcoming to food trucks, as city officials realize that food trucks benefit everyone. But some government officials, who may not be aware of this research, continue to enact unconstitutional laws that restrict or ban food trucks at the request of local restaurant owners under the misguided and false logic that food trucks will hurt their businesses. 

These new restrictions may also be unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has expressly held that economic protectionism violates the U.S. Constitution. See Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Ward, 470 U.S. 869, 877–83 (1985). And Ohio courts have repeatedly struck down unreasonable restrictions on competition, see City of Cincinnati v. Correll, 49 N.E.2d 412 (Ohio 1943), including in a remarkably similar situation involving ice cream trucks, see Frecker v. City of Dayton, 85 N.E.2d 419 (Ohio Ct. App. 1949). 

“It is not the government’s job to pick winners and losers in the marketplace,” said IJ Senior Attorney Justin Pearson. “That choice belongs to consumers. When government officials attempt to make that choice for them, they make the entire community worse off.” 

As part of its Economic Liberty work, IJ has successfully challenged anti-competitive laws that prevent Americans from earning an honest living. IJ has even won two different U.S. Supreme Court cases on the subject. As part of its National Street Vending Initiative, IJ has defeated dozens of anti-food truck restrictions, including victories in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, 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.