by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
The town council made the change in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of food truck operators who were represented by the Institute for Justice. From the IJ press release:
Last night, after an extended meeting behind closed doors, the Carolina Beach town council repealed a law that makes it illegal to operate a food truck in the town unless the owner also owns a brick-and-mortar restaurant in town. The unanimous vote came a week after the Institute for Justice (IJ) partnered with four Wilmington-area food trucks to file a lawsuit to strike down the unconstitutional law.
“It is a shame that it took a lawsuit to convince the town to repeal such an obviously unconstitutional law,” said Justin Pearson, a senior attorney at IJ. “I’m hopeful that last night’s vote will signal the end to the town’s attempt to use the power of government to favor a handful of established businesses over the region’s entrepreneurs. We hope that Carolina Beach realizes that when a town tries to restrict entrepreneurs for the benefit of existing businesses, everyone—customers and business owners, alike—loses.”
In addition to repealing the brick-and-mortar restaurant requirement, the council also voted to reopen public debate about how the city should regulate food trucks.
“Our lawsuit is far from over,” said IJ attorney Johanna Talcott. “The vote indicates that the town wants to abide by the state constitution, but the town also indicated that it still intends to pursue regulations regarding food trucks. We will continue to monitor those conversations and press for laws that foster open competition, entrepreneurship and, most importantly, more food options for Carolina Beach’s residents and visitors.”
On August 21, food truck owners Michelle Rock, Aaron & Monica Cannon and Harley Bruce teamed up with IJ to challenge the anti-competitive ordinance as a violation of the North Carolina Constitution’s guaranteed right to an honest living, which states that any restrictions on a citizen’s right to earn a living must be based on a reasonable concern for public health and safety. This ordinance was unrelated to either one, as town officials said that they did not object to food trucks in general, just competition from “outsiders.”
“I’m very excited, very happy for all food truck owners in the area,” said Michelle Rock, owner of T’Geaux Boys and Momma Rock’s Desserts. “We’re just very happy Carolina Beach has decided to lift restrictions and allow us to serve the public and allow us to serve food truck food.”
Harley Bruce, owner of Poor Piggy’s BBQ & Catering, said that just about everybody he talked to was in favor of allowing food trucks in the town and “the town seems to be listening to what the people are saying and making positive change.”
“We’re very happy and we’re just happy that they did the right thing,” Aaron Cannon, owner of A & M’s Red Food Truck, said. “We’re looking forward to serving the people of Carolina Beach and building relationships there.”