Joey Vanoni and Nikki McGowan are Baltimore-area mobile vending entrepreneurs. Joey is a Navy veteran and the owner of Pizza di Joey, a New York-style brick oven pizza food truck. The truck gives Joey the opportunity to not only serve delicious slices, but to also hire his fellow veterans. Nikki is the owner of Madame BBQ, a barbeque food truck that allows Nikki to share her love of cooking with Baltimore’s diverse communities. Joey and Nikki are precisely the type of hardworking entrepreneurs that the Charm City should encourage. Instead, Baltimore has made it nearly impossible for mobile vendors like Joey and Nikki to succeed.
Since 2014, mobile vendors have been banned from operating within 300 feet of any brick-and-mortar business that sells the same type of food, merchandise or service—including restaurants, cafes and convenience or clothing stores. Vendors that do face $500 in fines for each violation and can have their vendor’s license revoked.
The effect is to prohibit mobile vendors from operating in large swaths of Baltimore. The law is especially hard on food trucks, like Pizza di Joey and Madame BBQ, because of the city’s many restaurants and other food establishments. Worse still, the 300-foot rule arbitrarily treats food trucks differently based on what they sell. So while a taco truck would be banned from operating near a Mexican restaurant, a gyro truck could park right out front.
This law makes absolutely no sense—and it is unconstitutional. Its sole purpose is to protect brick-and-mortar businesses from competition. That is why on May 11, 2016, two Baltimore-area food trucks—Pizza di Joey and Madame BBQ—filed a lawsuit against the city challenging its 300-foot rule as a violation of the Maryland Constitution. They are represented by the Institute for Justice, which has won similar fights nationwide as part of its National Street Vending Initiative. A victory will secure the right to economic liberty for all Baltimore mobile vendors and empower entrepreneurs throughout Maryland.