Even though no food trucks currently serve the city, the Lancaster, NY Village Board is adopting new regulations on where entrepreneurs may park and sell food to hungry residents.
Should any food truck operators or mobile food salesmen, such as hot dog cart vendors, open up shop in Lancaster, a $250 license will be required to legally operate, the Village Council will need to approve the new business, and vendors will not be allowed to do business within 100 feet of a restaurant.
Protecting ‘Their Own Bottom Lines’
Institute for Justice attorney Robert Frommer says food-truck regulations have more to do with protecting brick-and-mortar restaurants than potential concerns about prospective food trucks.
“The restaurateurs who push for restrictions on food trucks and other mobile food vendors frequently do so not to protect the public’s health and safety but their own bottom lines,” Frommer said. “Time and again, the message from restauranteurs is increased competition from food trucks will cause them to suffer financially.
“This isn’t borne out by reality,” Frommer said. “What the Institute for Justice and other observers of the mobile-food movement have seen is that the presence of food trucks helps nearby restaurants by encouraging consumers to come out. These calls for protectionism are not just bad policy; they are unconstitutional. Every entrepreneur has the right to pursue their American dream, and the government cannot constitutionally squash those dreams just to improve a competitor’s bottom line.”
Regulations on food trucks can cause collateral damage against other industries, Frommer says.
“Many of the regulations cities impose on food trucks do impact other mobile businesses, including ice cream trucks and mobile fashion trucks,” Frommer said. “But in many cities, old laws governing ice cream trucks have been mechanically applied to modern gourmet food trucks, even though the two are very different types of businesses.”
A Cold Welcome
Daren Bakst, a Heritage Foundation agricultural policy research fellow, says the new regulations are a solution in search of a problem.
“This appears to be nothing more than a protectionist measure,” Bakst said. “Not a single food truck has come to Lancaster, yet the village is already trying to create obstacles for them. Ironically, Lancaster says it welcomes food trucks. … It has a funny way of showing it.
“Competition should be welcomed,” Bakst said. “If the food trucks provide a service that village residents demand, then the community will be better off.”
Bakst says restaurant owners should work to reduce their own regulatory burdens, instead of trying to drag down industries they perceive as competitive.
“Before determining whether a tax or regulation is appropriate, it is first critical to understand whether it exists just to help brick and mortar establishments or if it has a legitimate independent reason,” Bakst said. “Instead of getting upset and seeking to create even more government interference in the food service industry by pushing for taxes and regulations on their competition, brick and mortar establishments should fight to get rid of the often ridiculous requirements that are imposed upon them.”
Matt Hurley ([email protected]) writes from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Jeffrey Dermer, et al., “The New Food Truck Advocacy: Social Media, Mobile Food Vending Associations, Truck Lots, & Litigation in California & Beyond,” Nexus Journal of Law & Policy: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/new-food-truck-advocacy-social-media-mobile-food-vending-associations-truck-lots-li/