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As We See It

Food truck proximity restrictions ‘an unconstitutional use of government power’

Institute for Justice urges City Council to remove restrictions from current proposal

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"Street vending is, and always has been, a part of the American economy and a fixture of urban life. Thanks to low start-up costs, the trade has offered countless entrepreneurs—particularly immigrants and others with little income or capital—opportunities for self-sufficiency and upward mobility. At the same time, vendors enrich their communities by providing access to a wide variety of often low-cost goods and by helping to keep streets safe and vibrant."

This is the introduction to Streets of Dreams: How Cities Can Create Economic Opportunity by Knocking Down Protectionist Barriers to Street Vending, a report produced by the Institute for Justice as part of its National Street Vending Initiative. The Institute for Justice is a Virginia-based civil liberties law firm that "advocates in courts of law and public opinion to vindicate the right to earn an honest living." Today, the Institute sent a letter to the Las Vegas Mayor and City Council stating that a proposed ordinance that would create proximity restrictions between food trucks and restaurants is unconstitutional.

"Simply put, protecting established businesses from competition is an illegitimate use of government power," states the letter. It also references the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a protector of the rights of Las Vegas mobile vending entrepreneurs to operate free from arbitrary and protectionist regulation. "Las Vegas should reject protectionist efforts and instead enact clear, simple, legal, and modern laws that focus exclusively on protecting the public's health and safety."

Complaints from some Downtown restaurant operators have spurred City Council to consider updating its regulations regarding mobile food vendors. That action, to be reviewed at the next City Council meeting on August 15, would force food trucks to park at least 300 feet away from any licensed brick-and-mortar restaurant.

"The proposal before you will do nothing but restrict healthy economic activity and hit those on the first rung of the economic ladder the hardest—those with neither the time nor the resources to fight back politically," states the Institute's letter to the Council. "In these still-difficult economic times, Las Vegas should be fostering entrepreneurship and honest enterprise—not regulating it out of business."

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Brock Radke is Las Vegas Weekly's food editor and author of the Strip-focused column The Incidental Tourist. He has written ...

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