TEXAS: Mobile food vendors get voice
Posted: January 30th, 2011 - 3:53pm
Source: El Paso Times
Mobile food vendors, the darlings of television food shows and the rave in places like Austin, New York and California, are being turned into outlaws in El Paso by a city ordinance, it's alleged by a lawsuit on behalf of vendors.
In El Paso, the vendors, known as loncheras , are banned from parking within 1,000 feet of a restaurant or any other place that sells food, and they can no longer park on the side of a street and wait for customers to arrive.
The rules, passed in 2009, are being challenged in a federal suit filed Wednesday in El Paso.
The suit was filed by the Texas chapter of the Institute for Justice on behalf of four vendors. The suit is seeking to change three lines in the ordinance that limit where vendors can park their mobile kitchens.
"We are asking a federal judge to declare these laws unconstitutional," said Matt Miller, the executive director and attorney for the Institute for Justice. "These laws do nothing for public safety. All they do is protect the other businesses."
The city ordinance governing mobile food vendors and food carts was updated in August 2009. El Paso has 230 registered mobile food vendors.
City officials said they could not talk about the change in the ordinance or about the lawsuit.
But city Rep. Susie Byrd was surprised to hear a lawsuit had been filed because she does not remember there being any discussion when the ordinance was updated. And she said no one has brought up any concerns with the ordinance.