MEAN STREETS: IJ Launches National Defense of Food Vendors

The Institute for Justice has been vindicating the rights of entrepreneurs for the last twenty years.

Across the country, IJ has teamed up with casket makers, florists, hairbraiders, horse teeth-floaters, interior designers, sign-hangers, taxi-drivers, trash haulers, vintners and numerous other Americans to secure their basic right to earn an honest living.

This week, we are proud to announce a new, nationwide effort in our fight for economic liberty: Our National Street Vending Initiative.

From coast to coast, we will team up with mobile food vending entrepreneurs whenever their rights come under attack, filing lawsuits and engaging in grassroots activism and media efforts.

In conjunction with the launch of this initiative, we have filed a major federal lawsuit against the city of El Paso Texas:

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For thousands of years, vending has been a way for entrepreneurs to provide for themselves and their families. In the United States, this ancient trade is more popular than ever. By 2007, over 760,000 vending businesses were operating in the country. And consumers love them, so they continue to grow.

The Economist magazine predicted that in 2011 food vendors would create “[t]he biggest shift in America’s culinary landscape” and that “some of the best food Americans eat may come from a food truck.”

Unfortunately, government officials in El Paso recently decided to drive away their vending entrepreneurs. Institute for Justice economic liberty expert Matt Miller, who filed the lawsuit against El Paso, explains in the Daily Caller:

Officials in El Paso have recently made it illegal for mobile food vendors to operate within 1,000 feet of any restaurant, convenience store, or grocer. The city even prohibits vendors from parking to await customers, which forces vendors to constantly drive around town until a customer successfully flags them down–and then be on the move again as soon as the customer walks away.

Thus, instead of embracing their vending entrepreneurs, El Paso has decided to threaten them with thousands of dollars in fines and effectively run them out of town. This anti-competitive scheme is illegal because vending entrepreneurs have a constitutional right to earn an honest living free from unreasonable regulations.

Here’s a question for you: Should El Paso be allowed to turn itself into a No-Vending Zone in order to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants from competition?

We are arguing in federal court that the U.S. Constitution protects the right to earn an honest living free from unreasonable regulations. And that naked protectionism is not a valid use of government power.

What do you think? And, importantly, are you aware of any other cities that have similar vending laws? Please let us know on our facebook page. Thanks!