Gourmet food trucks got a little legal help in their fight to do business in Akron.
Last week, the Institute for Justice, an Arlington, Va.-based civil liberties law firm, sent Akron City Council a two-page letter urging council to eliminate the city’s ban on food trucks.
In the letter, the Institute notes how as part of its National Street Vending Initiative, it has challenged laws restricting food trucks successfully in several other large cities.
City Council President Jeff Fusco said he had not yet seen the letter, but said it would be reviewed along with numerous other materials as a city committee studies what the rules for food trucks should be. Currently, trucks are prohibited under old city legislation that prohibits selling items out of vehicles.
This summer, food truck operators began to fight for the right to sell in public spaces in Akron. They have met with opposition from the Downtown Akron Partnership and some downtown restaurant operators, who contend, among other things, that the trucks pose unfair competition to bricks and mortar businesses who have invested in downtown.
The fight in City Council resulted in council forming a committee, earlier this month, to study the matter and determine whether food trucks should be allowed. Fusco said the committee held its first meeting on Monday.
In its letter, the Institute for Justice specifically notes a ruling out of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, from an unrelated case in which the court determined such protectionist regulations were illegal. “Protectionism is an illegitimate use of government power,” the letter states.
Fusco said the city’s law department is represented on the committee and will be reviewing all pertinent case law.
“We’re going to do the work,” he said, noting that all aspects of the food truck issue will be debated and considered and that food truck operators are welcome to attend every meeting and be part of the process every step of the way.
Meanwhile, the food trucks themselves are getting more organized for their fight.
They formed the Greater Akron Food Truck Coalition to advocate for their cause as a more organized block.
Jeffrey Winer, owner of the Orange Trük, is serving as president of the food truck coalition and said in a news release that Akron has the opportunity to embrace food trucks instead of rejecting them, and can set a national example by passing a law that allows food trucks to operate and “is limited to protecting the public’s health and safety.”