Tyrannizing Food Trucks … and More

I will never quite understand what it is about food trucks that so often have municipal governments up in arms, but there is something about them that brings out the worst in city bureaucrats and law enforcement. Of course, in Chicago—where yours truly can be found—the degree of officious meddling that has to be endured by food truck proprietors (and their patrons) is nothing short of ridiculous. Alas, Chicago is not alone in having to put up with this nonsense. Consider this story from Arlington, VA:

For those of you who follow IJ’s National Street Vending Initiative, you most likely know that cities across the country pass arbitrary and anti-competitive laws that make it practically impossible for food trucks and other vendors to succeed.  An opportunity to fight against one such law has presented itself in Arlington, Virginia.

Arlington County has a law in place that prevents food trucks from operating in one place for more than 60 minutes. A local food truck named Seoul Food received a notice for violating this rule. According to the owner of the truck, he informed the police officer that he did move from one parking spot to another within the allotted time. The police officer still cited Seoul Food, however, because in the officer’s view the truck had not moved “far enough.” It is important to note that the County Code does not specify any minimum distance a truck must move; it states only that “the vehicle must remain stopped for … no longer than sixty (60) minutes.”  Arlington Code Section 30-9(B).

The penalty for violating Section 30-9 is severe. The Arlington County Code classifies a violation of the sixty-minute rule as a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by “confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500.”  Thus, Arlington considers selling food to willing customers from a legal parking space to be as serious as Reckless Driving, DUI, and Assault & Battery.

If you’re not appalled, I wonder about your sanity.

Of course, it is worth remembering that there is a certain group of people out there who, upon reading this story, may well almost uniformly express outrage and disgust concerning the city of Arlington’s actions. They may even express outrage and disgust concerning the actions of the city of Chicago when it comes to food trucks. In the next breath, however, this same group of people will tell you, me, and anyone else who will listen, that we should have a government big enough to tax you more, interfere with local decision-making when it comes to educating your kids, and impose upon you a one-size-fits-all health care regime straight out of Washington, DC.

You may have scorn for these people, but for Heaven’s sake, don’t ignore them. They make up a group big enough to have re-elected a president just a little over a month ago. And yes, that ought to be a source of concern to you.

  1. Percival

    The hostility to food carts is because it is hard for the bagman to make a pickup on a business that is being conducted on the street in front of God, the public, and any undercover camera crew that might be lurking nearby.  Established businesses are far easier to shake down.

    That at least is the Chicago reason: I can’t imagine why such behavior might be spreading to the DC area.

  2. Goldgeller
    Pejman Yousefzadeh: 

    If you’re not appalled, I wonder about your sanity. · · 6 hours ago

    For me, at least, there is nothing more disturbing than a food vendor sitting in one spot for longer than 60 minutes. I for one, am happy the government is taking action. 

    Really, in seriousness, for the food vendor situaion, most likely it’s to keep the vendors from leaving their carts their overnight or permanently staking out spot.  Not that many vendors would do that (the cart could be stolen in about 5 minutes) but the law is basically designed to keep the fancy areas of DC and Chicago fancy. Fancy people don’t want to see your food cart and smell your food, whether it be bagels or hotdogs, as they go to work. And look at the crowd you’d attract! I bet those people in line for the hotdog don’t earn more than $80k a year! 

  3. ConservativeWanderer
    Goldgeller

    I bet those people in line for the hotdog don’t earn more than $80k a year!  · 15 minutes ago

    How dare they open their own businesses!

    They should be sitting at home waiting for their monthly checks from Uncle Sugar.

  4. Larry3435

    “…that ought to be a source of concern to you.”

    “Concern”?  Seriously?  I passed “concern” back in the 70′s.  I didn’t even make it to 1984, which would have been an appropriate year for it.  I’ve also gone through denial, anger, depression, and bargaining, but somehow I never quite get to acceptance.  Now I just spend my time constructing a metaphorical bunker in the interstices of society where the bureaucrats do not yet slither like the snakes in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  

    Why do the bureaucrats pass these laws?  For the same reason the scorpion stung the frog.  You know the story…  The scorpion convinces the frog to carry it across the river by pointing out that it wouldn’t sting the frog, because then the scorpion would drown.  The frog agrees.  Then, halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog.  The dying frog asks “Why?  You’ll drown!”  The scorpion says,  “I’m a scorpion.  That’s what I do.”

  5. Pejman Yousefzadeh
    C

    Indeed, the story of the scorpion and the frog has great relevance here.

    Larry3435: “…that ought to be a source of concern to you.”

    “Concern”?  Seriously?  I passed “concern” back in the 70′s.  I didn’t even make it to 1984, which would have been an appropriate year for it.  I’ve also gone through denial, anger, depression, and bargaining, but somehow I never quite get to acceptance.  Now I just spend my time constructing a metaphorical bunker in the interstices of society where the bureaucrats do not yet slither like the snakes inRaiders of the Lost Ark.  

    Why do the bureaucrats pass these laws?  For the same reason the scorpion stung the frog.  You know the story…  The scorpion convinces the frog to carry it across the river by pointing out that it wouldn’t sting the frog, because then the scorpion would drown.  The frog agrees.  Then, halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog.  The dying frog asks “Why?  You’ll drown!”  The scorpion says,  “I’m a scorpion.  That’s what I do.” · 31 minutes ago

  6. jarhead
    C

    I love the idea that this local hospital has to engage food trucks while their hospital cafeteria is being remodeled:

    http://www2.tbo.com/lifestyles/flavor/2012/dec/08/7/memeto1-hospital-gets-meals-by-wheels-ar-580214/

  7. Goldgeller
    ConservativeWanderer

    Goldgeller

    I bet those people in line for the hotdog don’t earn more than $80k a year!  · 15 minutes ago

    How dare they open their own businesses!

    They should be sitting at home waiting for their monthly checks from Uncle Sugar. · 4 hours ago

    That’s right! 

    Don’t forget that these food cart people probably don’t serve healthy food. Which means they are a direct risk to the public at large, because after all, people can’t control themselves, dontchaknow. 

  8. ConservativeWanderer
    Goldgeller

    ConservativeWanderer

    Goldgeller

    I bet those people in line for the hotdog don’t earn more than $80k a year!  · 15 minutes ago

    How dare they open their own businesses!

    They should be sitting at home waiting for their monthly checks from Uncle Sugar. · 4 hours ago

    That’s right! 

    Don’t forget that these food cart people probably don’t serve healthy food. Which means they are a direct risk to the public at large, because after all, people can’t control themselves, dontchaknow.  · 3 minutes ago

    Absolutely!

    How do you think we survived the first 200+ years without Nanny Bloomberg telling us what to eat and drink?

  9. Leslie Watkins

    Where I live in North Carolina, it’s the restaurants that are fighting against the food trucks (competition from them), and local elected officials are very interested in pleasing established business over start-ups.

  10. ConservativeWanderer
    Leslie Watkins: Where I live in North Carolina, it’s the restaurants that are fighting against the food trucks (competition from them), and local elected officials are very interested in pleasing established business over start-ups. · 2 minutes ago

    And of course, it’s the legitimate role of government to pick the winners and losers in business.

    At least in Obamamerica it is.

    (/sarc off)

  11. Casey Taylor

    Do you expect any different from those who call themselves ‘progressives’ with no sense of irony or appreciation for the history of the term?  The modern Left has no sense of proportion, or connection between things, other than what they can imagine between Man and Weather.

    Related tangentially (at least in urban areas) is the predictable clash between well-meaning, limousine-liberal gentrifiers and the traditional denizens of the… grittier… city neighborhoods.  For some of the best schadenfreude money can buy, check out this fun-filled adventure from my own city of Atlanta.  Who would have imagined that taxpayer-funded public art projects might piss off the people on whom those projects were foisted?

  12. Pat in Obamaland
    Leslie Watkins: Where I live in North Carolina, it’s the restaurants that are fighting against the food trucks (competition from them), and local elected officials are very interested in pleasing established business over start-ups. · 5 hours ago

    My understanding is that this is exactly what is driving my beloved (and insane) Chicago’s response to the food trucks.  They can deliver cheap, tastey food right in front of your office on a weekly basis (rotating for variety) and this drives restaurants with fixed locations and large overhead crazy.  Of course the bureaucrats, working for the politicians need campaign cash, are happy to troll for vested interests.

  13. Pejman Yousefzadeh
    C

    Precisely correct.

    Pat in Obamaland

    Leslie Watkins: Where I live in North Carolina, it’s the restaurants that are fighting against the food trucks (competition from them), and local elected officials are very interested in pleasing established business over start-ups. · 5 hours ago

    My understanding is that this is exactly what is driving my beloved (and insane) Chicago’s response to the food trucks.  They can deliver cheap, tastey food right in front of your office on a weekly basis (rotating for variety) and this drives restaurants with fixed locations and large overhead crazy.  Of course the bureaucrats, working for the politicians need campaign cash, are happy to troll for vested interests. · 6 hours ago

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