Bloomington City Council Passes New Food Truck Rules

Published March 31, 2015

Responding to pressure from local restaurant owners, lawmakers in Bloomington, Indiana passed new regulations on where food truck vendors may sell food to customers. The new ordinance prevents food truck vendors from selling food to customers within 50 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

The new regulations will take effect immediately after mayor Matt Kruzan (D) has signed the ordinance.

‘Artificial Barriers’

Heritage Foundation agricultural policy research fellow Daren Bakst says increasing regulations on entrepreneurs will hurt the city’s economy, and its residents.

“We don’t want to create artificial barriers to start a business. Food trucks are something that consumers certainly enjoy and are demanding,” he said. “It’s not shocking to see local businesses and local governments trying to, then, create ways to make it more difficult for them to actually engage in their business.”

Bakst says elected officials and established players in a market sometimes collude to keep competition from arising.

‘Be Very Skeptical’

“What they do is they create these over-broad language to, basically, capture and to block food trucks from engaging in business practices that, most of the time, aren’t going to be any problem whatsoever,” he said.

Bakst said consumers in other cities should watch out for similar examples of regulatory capture occurring among their elected officials.

“Be very skeptical of any ordinance or any type of laws that try to regulate the food trucks,” he said, “It will look innocent on its face.” 

Protecting Against Competition

Institute for Justice senior attorney Bert Gall says Bloomington’s regulations are “wrong-headed.”

“The idea that there needs to be a distance restriction between food trucks and restaurants… it just is thoroughly wrong-headed, because these distance restrictions are premised on the idea that you have to protect restaurants from competition from food trucks,” he said.

“Restaurants have a host of inherent advantages over food trucks, including a kitchen, climate-controlled dining areas, the ability to have an expanded menu, they have restroom facilities. All of those inherent advantages means they don’t need the extra advantage of the government keeping their competition at bay,” 

“The fact that these are distance restrictions from restaurants as opposed to any other business, that’s pretty telling that this is about protectionism.”

“Whenever city councilmen start talking about ‘food trucks to need to be a certain distance away from restaurants’ or ‘we need to do something to preserve our downtown restaurants from competition,’ whenever there is that discussion from government, watch out.”

“Don’t believe that there is a legitimate reason,” he said.

Amelia Hamilton ([email protected]) writes from Traverse City, MI.

Internet Info:

“LA’s Taco Truck War: How Law Cooks Food Culture Contests,” Ernesto Hernández-López,