PENSACOLA, FL – A legal organization that challenges food truck restrictions and works with the vehicles’ operators nationwide is warning that a proposed Pensacola ordinance to regulate the roving eateries would be illegal.

Pensacola is considering a law proposed by Council Member Charles Bare that would require food trucks to get a permit to operate downtown for city sponsored or cosponsored events, among other circumstances.

Last month Pensacola’s Planning Board recommended that the law should also restrict the trucks from operating within 200 feet from any restaurant in the city.

A law that regulates the trucks’ operations, except to protect the public’s health and safety, would be illegal, including banning them from operating within a set distance from restaurants, said Robert Frommer, an attorney with the Arlington, Va.-based Institute for Justice (IJ). It’s legitimate for a city to ban the trucks from operating on narrow streets if that is a safety concern.

“The government can’t keep you from making an honest living just to protect your competitors,” Frommer said. “The government shouldn’t be in the business of protecting restaurants from food trucks.”

The IJ, which takes up various legal causes, has successfully challenged a food truck ordinance in El Paso, Texas, in 2011 that banned the trucks from operating within 1,000 feet of restaurants. El Paso also required the trucks be in constant motion when not making a sale.

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