Defending Street Vendors, Food Trucks, and Consumer Choice

By JOHN ADAMS | Free Whitewater

Here’s an update in the battle for economic freedom and consumer choice.

I’ve written before about how incumbent, brick-and-mortar restaurants try to use government to shield themselves from food-truck competitors. Those restaurateurs do not — will never — deserve governmental protection. They made a free choice to open a store, instead of operating a truck, and if that voluntary investment does not work out, it’s not government’s job to regulate away competitors who were wiser to avoid the overhead. If consumers don’t care for the supposed ambiance of a restaurant, and prefer instead a food truck’s fare, they should be allowed to make that choice.

Traditional merchants who use the state to crush lower-cost and more-desirable consumer choices are particularly loathsome. Those who operate food trucks are hard working, often new arrivals to America, and by their very offerings are committed to freedom of choice in the marketplace. They’re far, far closer to the American ideal than selfish, manipulative incumbents who use municipal regulations to bolster unpopular, uncompetitive enterprises.

See, previously, Institute for Justice Defends the Rights of Street Vendors and A Victory in the Food Truck Wars.

There’s help on the way for these bullied vendors: the Institute for Justice has now filed suit on behalf of street vendors in Atlanta, who are being forced from their long-standing locations. See, Atlanta Vendors File Major Lawsuit Against City, Join National Street Vending Initiative: New Study Shows Atlanta Has the Worst Vending Laws in the Country.

The IJ summarizes what’s at stake:

Should the city of Atlanta be allowed to create a single street vending monopoly that forces existing vendors to start paying up to $20,000 in rent and fees every year?

That is the question to be answered by a major lawsuit filed today by the Institute for Justice (IJ) – a national civil liberties law firm – and two well-known Atlanta vending entrepreneurs: Larry Miller and Stanley Hambrick….

In conjunction with the lawsuit, the Institute released a national report, Streets of Dreams, which reviews vending laws in America’s 50 largest cities. The lawsuit and report continue IJ’s National Street Vending Initiative, a nationwide effort to vindicate the right of street vendors to earn an honest living.

Earlier this year, El Paso, Texas, repealed its protectionist vending regulations in response to an IJ lawsuit.

Here’s a backgrounder on the case, Miller v. City of Atlanta.