Haines City Considers Food Truck Restrictions: Small Businesses Voice Concerns

Haines City, Florida, is embroiled in a David and Goliath battle over the fate of its food trucks. Local entrepreneurs like Laura Moore and Josh Moore, owners of Smokin' Oak BBQ & Catering, fear their livelihood is on the line as city officials consider tightening restrictions on mobile food vendors.

The proposed ordinance, if passed, would effectively ban most food trucks in the city. It includes a 500-foot buffer zone between trucks and any other food establishments, effectively pushing them out of business districts. Additionally, the city initially denied licenses to new food trucks, even though they already held state permits.

This move has sent shockwaves through the food truck community. Laura Moore, who built Smokin' Oak BBQ from the ground up, expressed her bewilderment: "It's really concerning, why this push all of a sudden?"

Davenport resident Lenora Crawford, co-owner of "Touch of Philly" food truck, has already felt the sting of the proposed regulations. Forced to move locations, she was denied a license by the city and subsequently shut down within three days. "How can they do that?" she questioned, highlighting the lack of due process.

The Institute for Justice, a non-profit legal advocate, has stepped in to defend the food trucks. Attorney Erica Smith Ewing argues that the city's actions violate state law and is "nuts" to enforce an ordinance not yet passed.

The Institute's intervention has led to some progress. The city attorney is working with them to address concerns, and Mayor Ron Tyler granted temporary permits for existing food trucks while the ordinance is debated.

However, the latest proposed changes, while less restrictive than the initial draft, still raise concerns. The one-truck-per-lot rule, seating prohibition, and three-parking-space requirement are seen as burdensome and unnecessary by food truck owners.

Laura Moore, undeterred, has formed the Save Haines City Food Trucks Coalition to rally support. "We are small businesses," she emphasizes, "We build relationships with our customers and contribute to the community."

The coalition is urging residents and food truck owners from across the region to contact city officials and voice their opposition to the proposed restrictions. They believe public pressure is crucial to saving their vibrant food truck scene.

This story highlights the complex tensions between brick-and-mortar businesses and mobile vendors, often portrayed as competitors. However, the Haines City case shines a light on the broader issue of fair regulation and the potential impact on small businesses trying to make a living. As the battle unfolds, it remains to be seen whether Haines City will embrace its diverse food scene or risk stifling entrepreneurial spirit.

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