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The Source: Food Trucks And Restaurants Get Closer


Thursday afternoon, the San Antonio City Council removed a 30 year-old ban on food trucks being within 300 feet of a brick and mortar restaurant. The ordinance had been orchestrated to offer a preference to store-based dining at the expense of food trucks, say opponents. 

District 10 San Antonio City Councilman Mike Gallagher says the thing that struck him about the ordinance was from the perspective of a mom and pop restaurant.

"And here they are paying property taxes. They are paying utility costs. They're paying everything that a fixed facility would have to take care of, restroom requirements is the subject that came up. They've got building repairs and so forth. And yet, we're going to allow, just out of nowhere, this mobile facility to come up and be competition?"

But isn't that the point of disruptive business models and capitalism as a whole argues Arif Panju, an attorney who represented food truck owners in a lawsuit against the City of San Antonio. He works for the Institute of Justice in Austin and they have taken a special interest in these types of cases. His lawsuit and lawsuits like it have argued the questionable constitutionality of such a ban. 

"The use of government power to pick winners and losers in the marketplace is unconstitutional," says Panju. "The government needs a real and substantial basis that involves public health and safety or consumer protection and have evidence to back that up before they regulate a market competitor and in this case, the 300 foot ban had none of those things."

The city attorney Martha Sepeda came to the same conclusion, and recommended the ban be eliminated. When asked if there was a way to keep such a ban in place given courtroom losses in other cities, Sepeda responded, "The case is not defensible. I don't know how else I can say that."


Louis Barrios, owner of Los Barrios Family Restaurants and board member of the San Antonio Restaurant Association

Arif Panju, attorney for the Institute for Justice

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive