Papa John’s and The Case of the Over-Regulated Food Trucks
posted at 6:20 pm on April 20, 2012 by Patrick Ishmael
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.