Green Room

Papa John’s and The Case of the Over-Regulated Food Trucks

posted at 6:20 pm on April 20, 2012 by

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the city has sent out new maps setting out where food trucks can set up shop downtown. Already restricted, the location possibilities for food trucks appear to be getting even more limited, and that’s bad news for food trucks and customers alike.

The updated map draws a 200-foot no-parking-zone around every brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Downtown Vending District, which runs roughly from 18th Street east to Interstate 70/55 and from Cole Street south to Chouteau Avenue.

The trucks also are not allowed within 200 feet of other types of street vendors or within several blocks of Busch Stadium, America’s Center and the Edward Jones Dome. A previous version of the map included suggested areas where food trucks could park; the new version does not.[…]

“Like any new industry or trend, as soon as everyone jumps in, the regulations follow, which often makes sense. In this case, I think the city is over-regulating,” Pi Pizzeria owner Chris Sommers said. “They do need to protect existing businesses, but the 200-foot rule plus the silly Cardinals and Convention Zones are too much.”

You can find the new map here. As the Show-Me Institute has noted in the past, creating special protections like these runs afoul of good policy and the facilitation of greater consumer choice. The city’s new map accentuates and enhances these ongoing mistakes.

For instance, why in the world does Starbucks need protection from taco wagons? Starbucks sells coffee and pastries. That has nothing to do with the food that, for example, Seoul Taco sells.


Why can’t a mobile sandwich shop like Taste-D-Burger set up shop on a block where a bevy of sandwich shops — upscale and down — are already competing against one another, and many for years?


Why is there a halo around this storefront when The Crack Fox doesn’t even open until 3pm, well after the food truck lunch rush?


And here’s my favorite: Why does Papa John’s, which can deliver pizzas across the food truck map, get protections around its brick-and-mortar store, and get de facto protections for its delivery routes around the brick-and-mortar stores of others?


I have to disagree with the owner of Pi’s assessment that the city needs to be “protecting” existing businesses. There are blocks upon blocks of downtown real estate where lunch is served in permanently-located restaurants well-within the 200 foot halos the city has constructed around neighboring shops — permanent locations that are almost certainly greater threats to each other than the food trucks themselves. But even if you wanted to make sure taco joints weren’t being displaced by mobile taco stands parking on their doorstep, the present regulation is far too over-broad to equitably accomplish that goal.

A food truck taco stand couldn’t sell tacos within 200 feet of a storefront that’s closed at lunch, for Pete’s sake. That’s a policy that Saint Louisans will have a hard time digesting.

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A business that needs to be “protected” by the government is a business that is not giving great service to it’s customers.

joejmz on April 20, 2012 at 6:53 PM

What they are really protecting is the rents and therefore the city property taxes.

aniptofar on April 20, 2012 at 9:09 PM

They do need to protect existing businesses


Mine is going under

WeekendAtBernankes on April 20, 2012 at 9:13 PM

Ah “Roach Coaches”! That’s what I used to hear them called in New York.

As for St. Louis City… well, that’s pretty solid, liberal Democrat territory and while Mayor Slay has played himself as a “man of the people” and reasonable, he might just be a mini-Bloomberg without the billions.

The guy with the roach coach that used to service the dealership I worked at either stated or implied that the mob was involved. He had a territory and he couldn’t encroach on another roach coach. I heard the same went for a number of types of delis and pizza shops. Heresay, but who knows… it’s New York.

Portions of St. Louis City are dead/dying. They’re doing what they can to keep it going, but I wonder. Tourism and sports is not enough to keep the city afloat… which is probably one of the reasons why Slay and others in the city keep refloating and pushing the idea for the city and St. Louis County to merge.

Some Democrat leaders in the county want the merger, but most people in the County like it just the way it is. A merger would put all of the city’s debt problems and more in their lap.


What was that you were talking about? Over-regulation?


Logus on April 21, 2012 at 1:08 AM

In the animal world, genetics and proving one’s own worth keeps a species going among other competing species. But we cannot learn for the real world; we know much more than natural law. We need to make change using regulation and once that ball is in motion it become perpetual.

ericdijon on April 21, 2012 at 8:24 AM

Like any new industry or trend, as soon as everyone jumps in, the regulations follow

It seems to be a microcosm of “crony capitalism.”

That is, established businesses “lobby” or push for increased regulation and compliance costs to make it more difficult for new competitors to enter and get a foothold in the market.

A classic example is the the taxi cab industry in large cities. The “legacy” companies do anything and everything they can to prevent free-market competition, thus artificially raising costs for consumers. This, of course, gives rise to an underground market. In the case of NYC there were “dollar vans” that could take you around the boroughs.

visions on April 21, 2012 at 8:48 AM

More to the point, who’d eat at a place named “The Crack Fox“?

bofh on April 21, 2012 at 10:24 AM

There can actually be a possible side issue here on sales tax payments, though I’m not sure about how cities and counties in Missouri handle their sales tax collection laws.

Here in Texas, you’re seeing smaller cities in some of the big oil shale fracking areas dealing with an invasion of the food trucks from the bigger cities, since the number of 24/7 drill operations in the area means there are big opportunities for food service businesses. The problem from the smaller cities’ view is if Mobile Food Vendor A is licensed in Big City X that can be 50-75 miles away, that’s the city the sales tax money goes to, even though the vendor didn’t sell a dime of food in that city that day. So Small City Y (which may need the sales tax revenues more) loses out unless Vendor A opens a brick-and-mortar business in town or changes its city of permit.

As a result, you’re seeing zoning restrictions on the mobile food vendors being put in, similar to the one in St. Louis (of course, if the St. Louis mobile food vendors are permitted in St. Louis, and are collecting sales tax the city, the above problem with the smaller cities doesn’t apply).

jon1979 on April 21, 2012 at 10:59 AM

visions on April 21, 2012 at 8:48 AM

The cab companies in the city also pay a huge fee for the right to do business as I recall. I don’t know if they still do it, but I seem to recall big metal “medallions” which were affixed to the hood of cabs and tow trucks proving that they had a right to do business in the city, they’d paid the ridiculously high fee the city charged them.

My father drove a taxi for a couple of years out on Long Island. He could take fares into the city but he could not pick up any fares in the city to take them back out.

Similarly, he now has a towing business. In theory he’s only supposed to operate within his township. He certainly isn’t supposed to pick up vehicles in the city, but I dunno. I suspect there’s a bit more leeway with towing companies, though he did get slammed a few years back. He was caught in his township operating without their medallion. One way or another, the government wants their cut, even when you’re already paying lots of other taxes, they’ll find other fees to add on.

jon1979 on April 21, 2012 at 10:59 AM

I can understand the quandry the small towns are having you’ve cited, but I don’t think your analogy applies, unless some of those vendors in St. Louis City do/are trying to venture out into the county.

With as many political and bureacratic busy-bodies as there are around here, if they see something they can tax or put a new fee on, they’ll do it.

Right now the town I live in is getting all slap-happy with fees, fines and inspections over rental properties and landlords… we have a huge percentage of them in our town. It bleeds over into regular homeowners and has gotten to the point where you wonder if you have to get a permit and an inspection just to install a curtain rod. Hyperbole, but feels about that bad.

I want so much to move to the countryside. Suburbs and big cities just love them some regulations, fees and taxes.

Logus on April 21, 2012 at 11:18 AM

I grew up eating pizza, soft pretzels and hoagies off Philadelphia corner food stands. (What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.) As I remember, those vendors were pretty closely packed with several on each block.

I suspect an unspoken underlying reason for keeping the roach coaches at bay is they are mostly manned by immigrants and working class people rather than people wearing white chef’s hats with Cordon Bleu credentials coming out their ears. “Those” people are OK as long as they stay in their own neighborhoods and sell to their own people. You certainly don’t want them in places where the city’s top echelons and out-of-towners might see them.

catsandbooks on April 21, 2012 at 3:41 PM

The owner of PI restaurant has a food truck. They set up at locations around St.Louis at lunch time.

PI also has permanent locations.

A food truck is very different from a Roach Coach

glsmith36 on April 21, 2012 at 10:23 PM

In the animal world, genetics and proving one’s own worth keeps a species going among other competing species.
ericdijon on April 21, 2012 at 8:24 AM

.. the regulators were for evolution before they were against it …

AesopFan on April 22, 2012 at 12:27 AM

Once again a government is exceeding its role as referee in commerce and actively changing the rules of the game.

That way almost always works out so poorly.

If you have a restaurant that offers value and service, not to mention a place to sit down and be served, you’ll survive and thrive, no matter what competition is around, as long as everyone plays by the same rules.

/NT (near topic)
My wife and I owned a restaurant and we thrived, in spite of all sorts of direct competition nearby, because we offered a product that people wanted, competitively priced.

Sure, there were people who went chain, but then, we didn’t want every sale (greed) when we were open. We just wanted a piece of the action.

We were content with the sales we had, as well as the growth we experienced.


Competition is GOOD. Liberals don’t seem to get that. Or maybe because they realize that they can’t compete and win.(*) So that’s why they want to keep changing the rules.

* – that’s why everyone gets a ribbon these days…because Liberals can’t actually win and are jealous of the winners.

The way Libbies level the playing field is to keep digging it deeper and deeper until you find yourself in a hole you can’t climb out of…leaving everyone the same … dead.

ProfShadow on April 22, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Ah don’ know, but nex’ time I goes to St Louis, I will check out dat Crack Fox place!

MarionBarry on April 20, 2012 at 6:50 PM

affenhauer on April 22, 2012 at 1:25 PM

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