WILMINGTON — A new law in Carolina Beach cracking down on food trucks will be served in court.
The Institute for Justice on Tuesday, Aug. 21, announced a lawsuit against the town over the move.
The lawsuit is a response to a town ordinance passed in April allowing brick-and-mortar restaurants to venture into the food truck business, so long as they have been operating for more than a year.
“The government is not allowed to pick winners and losers in the marketplace,” said Justin Pearson, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice. “That choice belongs to customers.”
IJ is a nonprofit law firm focused on litigating matters of economic freedom, school choice, private property, and free speech. Pearson said the lawsuit is about the economic liberty of food truck owners.
“The government may not regulate some businesses out of town simply to protect others from competition,” Johanna Talcott, an IJ attorney, said. “The North Carolina Constitution specifically prohibits this sort of economic protectionism.”
Carolina Beach allowed no food trucks to operate in the town before passing the new law earlier this year. Neither IJ or the food truckers involved in the lawsuit are aware of any Carolina Beach restaurants operating food trucks.
“We don’t want to compete with anyone. We just want to do the same things that the restaurants are doing,” Michelle Rock, owner of Momma Rocks Deserts and T’Geaux Boys, said. “We want to serve the customers, serve our neighbors, serve the islanders, and let it be pleasurable for everybody.”
Joining Rock in the lawsuit are Aaron and Monica Cannon, owners of A&M’s Red Food Truck, and Harley Bruce, owner of Poor Piggy’s BBQ & Catering Truck. The food truck owners said they just want the town to treat them like they treat the restaurants.
“We are inspected just like restaurants. We’re held to the same standards of food quality and storage just like restaurants,” Rock said. “We are following all the rules.”
Pearson said the ordinance is unconstitutional on several grounds. For one, it violates a provision of the state constitution that people have the right to enjoy the fruits of their own labor. Pearson said the ordinance also violates the equal protection clause and the anti-monopoly clause.
“You can’t restrict an opportunity to a set group of people and exclude outsiders,” Pearson said. “That is exactly what Carolina Beach has done.”
Michael Cramer, Carolina Beach town manager, said town officials haven’t seen the lawsuit and declined comment.
Lindsay Marchello is a staff writer for Carolina Journal.