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Court rules in favor of mobile vendors

Judge Cynthia Jones of Baltimore City's Circuit Court allowed two food truck companies' conjoint suit against the city to move forward this week, agreeing to hear arguments against the infamous 300-foot rule.

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The law, passed in 2014, places constraints on mobile food vendors by prohibiting them from conducting business within 300 feet of any restaurant selling similar food items. More specifically, food trucks are banned from parking "within 300 feet of any retail business establishment that is primarily engaged in selling the same type of food product."

This didn't sit right with Joey Vanoni of Pizza di Joey and Nikki McGowan of Madame BBQ. The two Baltimore-based food truck owners believe the law puts mobile vendors at a disadvantage to their stationary competitors. Attorneys Greg Reed and Robert Frommer of the Institute for Justice took on the two cases, arguing there is no legal justification for placing such limitations on mobile food vendors. Not surprisingly, Reed and Frommer's challenge of this law was met with immediate resistance from the city. The City Council of Baltimore filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing the 300-foot law "protects the general welfare and promotes economic stability." Reed and Frommer then contested the motion, positing the law does not serve public health purposes, but, rather provides unfair protection to brick-and-mortar food vendors, which is unconstitutional.

Vanoni and McGowan aren't the only two Baltimorean entrepreneurs suffering under these provisions. The law establishes thousands of no-vending zones and severely inhibits all local mobile vendors' abilities to pursue their respective goals. Reed and Frommer address this in their response to the city's motion for dismissal, stating the "special scrutiny" being enforced by the city through this law imposes a "significant burden on [the] personal interests" of mobile food vendors. Fortunately, the Circuit Court of Baltimore City was in agreement with this and denied the Defendant's motion for dismissal. The Court will hear arguments against the 300-foot rule later this year and hopefully be able to provide small business owners like Vanoni and McGowan with some relief.

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