Tupelo begins draft of food truck regulations

By Aaron Rice
September 12, 2018

The city of Tupelo is in the process of drafting new regulations for food truck operators within the city limits.

According to the Daily Journal, city leaders hope to have an ordinance before the council in October. This has been in the works for some time now, with leaders talking about food truck regulations back in May.

At that time, Councilman Willie Jennings said, in proposing the regulations, “I just want to make sure the established businesses are protected.” Another councilman, Markel Whittington, said brick-and-mortar restaurants have requested food truck regulations. While he didn’t feel food trucks posed a ‘threat’ to those restaurants, he believed it was appropriate for government to act ‘on behalf of select business interests.’

“I think we have to protect some of our taxpayers and high employers,” he said.

The proposed ordinance would likely prohibit food trucks from operating on public property along major thoroughfares. Major thoroughfares include virtually all of Main and Gloster streets, two of the most prominent retail areas in the city.

And they also happen to be where most food trucks are currently located.

When Tupelo leaders began discussing food truck regulations, Mississippi Justice Institute, the legal arm of Mississippi Center for Public Policy, sent a letter to the city warning of litigation if these regulations passed.

“The very regulation Tupelo is discussing—a regulation about how close a food truck should be to a restaurant—was found to be unenforceable just this past December in Baltimore. Food truck regulations around the country have been challenged over and over in court, from Louisville, to San Antonio, to Chicago, and many places in between. Cities ultimately realize that these kinds of cases are very hard to defend,” the letter said.

More recently, the city of Carolina Beach, North Carolina repealed it’s prohibition on out-of-town food trucks from serving the city after a lawsuit was filed by the Institute of Justice. Under the law that has since been scrapped, only brick-and-mortar restaurants that have been in business for more than one year could run a food truck.

“It is a shame that it took a lawsuit to convince the town to repeal such an obviously unconstitutional law,” Justin Pearson, senior attorney at IJ said. “I’m hopeful that this vote will signal the end to the town’s attempt to use the power of government to favor a handful of established businesses over the region’s entrepreneurs.”

Food trucks are already regulated like brick-and-mortar establishments. They must already obtain a license from the city and the state, along with a health permit from the Department of Health.


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