On Wednesday, two food truck operators were giving away free lobster rolls and cheesesteaks in downtown Jacksonville, N.C.
Why? Because they say it is arguably illegal to sell them in the city.
The giveaway comes as the food truck owners announced their lawsuit agains the city. They say Jacksonville’s regulations of food trucks on private property in unconstitutional and “anti-competitive.”
Jacksonville’s regulations effectively ban food trucks from operating within 250 feet of another food truck, restaurant, or residential housing. Bob Belden, an attorney with Institute for Justice, says the proximity rule alone prevents food trucks from operating in 96% of the city.
“The city of Jacksonville went even further to protect the restaurants in the city from food truck competition,” said Belden. “They regulate the signage available to food trucks and they also impose a $300 permit fee that far exceeds their cost to regulate food trucks.”
Plaintiffs in the case include Anthony “Tony” Proctor, owner of The Spot food truck, and Octavius “Ray” Raymond, the owner of The Cheesesteak Hustle food truck. Proctor operates his food truck primarily on the property of Tony in the parking lot of New Beginnings Christian Center, where he is a pastor. Under the city’s regulations, if a restaurant were to open within 250 feet of New Beginnings, he’d have to pack up and move his business.
Nicole Gonzalez, the owner of Northwoods Urban Farm, is also a plaintiff because the regulations prevent her from hosting food trucks on her property. The food truck trend is not going away, plaintiffs claim.
“There are a number of forward-thinking municipalities in this part of North Carolina, like Wilmington, that see the value of the economic impact of having food trucks and increasing food traffic in communities, getting people to buy local and shop local,” said Belden.
Food trucks are subject to the same health and safety requirements as brick and mortar restaurants. Twice a year, county health officials inspect the trucks and the food kitchens, called commissaries, that they are required to have.
“We had the food trucks give out some of their food for free, so they aren’t running afoul of any laws,” said Belden. “I have to say the Lobster Roll at Tony’s is really good, and Ray has a cheesesteak with Flaming Hot Cheetos on it and, don’t tell my wife, but I had both.”