Louisville, Ky.—Tonight, the Louisville Metro Council repealed a law that prohibits food trucks from operating within 150 feet of any restaurant or other eating establishment that serves similar food. The change comes in response to a federal lawsuit the Institute for Justice (IJ) filed last summer on behalf of Troy King and Robert Martin, two Louisville food truck owners who had been pushed out of the downtown area where eager customers could easily find them.
Before tonight, Louisville prohibited food trucks from operating within 150 feet of a restaurant that sells the same or similar food—a rule so broad that it threatened hot dog trucks operating near a Taco Bell or Chipotle (because both also sell chips) or 7-Eleven. The rule even applied on private property, limiting what private individuals could legally do with their own land. The only way around the ban was if a mobile vendor asked for and received special permission, in writing, from the very restaurants he would be competing with. Unsurprisingly, such permission was rarely forthcoming, and it could be withdrawn at any time without notice. The government was essentially giving its preferred private businesses the power to “veto” their competitors.
As a result, Louisville’s anti-competitive 150-foot ban was an anchor around the neck of Louisville’s mobile vending community, forcing many trucks away from profitable, high-traffic areas into places where it was much harder for a food business to survive.
“The repeal of Louisville’s unconstitutional 150-foot ban marks a victory for the economic liberty of every entrepreneur in this city,” said IJ attorney and lead counsel, Arif Panju. “It’s great to see the Louisville Metro government encourage healthy competition, which creates jobs, instead of using government power to pick winners and losers in the marketplace.”
In June 2017, Troy King, operator of the Pollo food truck, and Robert Martin, operator of Red’s Comfort Foods, teamed up with IJ and local counsel April Wimberg, of the firm Bingham Greenebaum Doll, to challenge Louisville’s 150-foot ban in federal court for violating the U.S. Constitution. The Metro Council’s repeal of the controversial law is a major victory not just for Troy and Robert, but for all of Louisville’s mobile vending community, which is now free to grow or fail because of customer choice, instead of government interference.
With the repeal ordinance passed, IJ attorneys plan to file an agreed consent decree in the U.S. District Court before moving to dismiss the case.
“This is great news because I don’t have to worry about Louisville Metro playing favorites anymore,” said Robert Martin. “I can run my business, just like any business owner should be able to do.”
“This is tremendous not just for me but for every food truck here in Louisville,” said Troy King.
IJ attorneys based their lawsuit on the landmark 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, Craigmiles v. Giles. In Craigmiles, the 6th Circuit—which includes Kentucky—ruled that it is illegitimate for the government to restrict fair economic competition in order to give special favors to a politically connected business. Louisville’s 150-foot ban only existed to give special protection to brick-and-mortar restaurants. In deciding to repeal the ban on its own terms, the Louisville Metro government will avoid a similar ruling in federal court.
“This repeal means that no longer will entrepreneurs in Louisville need to get their competitors’ permission to operate a business,” said IJ senior attorney Rob Frommer, who directs IJ’s National Street Vending Initiative. “Laws that harm food trucks in order to protect brick-and-mortar establishments from competition are unconstitutional, and we aim to put a stop to them across the country.”