Food truck law might be serious problem for Long Beach residents; law firms claims the law might be unconstitutional

Long Beach, Calif. – Monday, the Institute for Justice sent a letter to city officials expressing concern that the City Council’s August directive to “strike a balance” between physical restaurants and food trucks in the city could be interpreted as “protectionism,” which the firm claims has been ruled unconstitutional by federal courts.

The city’s existing legislation only permits food trucks to operate in construction zones. The city is seeking to modify its local rules so that they are consistent with state laws, such as permitting them to operate within 200 feet of a restroom they can access. The first phase might also mandate that all city-operating trucks obtain a city health permit.

However, local restaurant owners have complained that food trucks are taking their business, and the council has suggested that it would support a law that strikes a balance between the interests of permanent eateries and mobile eateries. A consultant’s report to the city recommended the creation of designated zones where food trucks might operate.

The vote on the revised ordinance is not anticipated until October 2023.

The institute’s senior attorney, Justin Pearson, stated on Monday that the council’s remarks from the August 23 meeting might undercut any kind of prohibition the city might implement in the next law, emphasizing that legislation cannot be used as a pretext for protectionism.

Pearson stated, “The City Council members made no attempt to conceal the fact that they were acting on behalf of restaurant owners.” I’ve won cases with less proof than what the Long Beach City Council has presented at this meeting.

Pearson was careful to note that the letter did not constitute a legal threat, but that the organization would monitor the proceeding. Pearson stated that the council’s deliberations would violate state and federal laws.

Several council members stated at the August 23 City Council meeting that they would like to see the new law reflect a compromise between food trucks and physical restaurants, possibly by establishing a special operating zone for food trucks to make it easier for city health inspectors to enforce regulations.

Councilmember Mary Zendejas stated that the city had “cherished” food trucks for a long time, but that “we must also take into account our brick-and-mortar companies”

Suzie Price, a councilmember, stated that businesses placed in a business improvement area must pay special taxes, which can be very expensive and frustrating if “not everyone is operating under the same limits.”

Rex Richardson agreed that food trucks are some people’s ambitions and that they’ve invested much in them, but he added that the city should recognize that they are “in many respects, a challenge to current businesses.”

Cities are permitted to limit food truck operations if they pose a threat to public health or safety. In Long Beach, food trucks are already prohibited from operating in designated parking-impacted areas.

The city anticipates that a draft of the ordinance will not be presented to the council until April, with a possible adoption date in September or October.

City Attorney Charlie Parkin stated that he was unable to comment on the Institute for Justice letter since it had not yet been forwarded to his office. The city will not favor one firm over another, according to Parkin.

“We’re not going to establish a law stating that we prefer Gladstone’s over a food truck,” Parkin said.

The institute has prevailed in lawsuits in communities such as San Antonio and Louisville that attempted to prohibit food trucks from operating within a certain distance of a real restaurant. It also wrote a similar letter to the city of Denver, which in late August partially removed its prohibition on food trucks operating in its downtown core.

Pearson stated that his company got aware of the Long Beach rule after food truck operators complained to them about being abused by the city.

He expressed a desire to collaborate with the city to draft a better ordinance. On its website, the institute promotes model legislation for both municipal and state governments, which it claims simplifies the procedure for operators to achieve compliance without the burden of several applications and payments.

According to Pearson, food trucks play a crucial role in cities and can help draw people to commercial corridors and cities, something that cities like Long Beach spend a great deal of money to do.

“Food trucks can do this for free,” added Pearson. If you allow it.

City Council moves forward in creating new rules for food trucks

City Council to consider new rules for food trucks in Long Beach

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