Multiple Licenses Required?
I got a question from Kandi about how many licenses are required for a mobile food cart in her town. It’s normal for a city to require a license for a hot dog cart or street food vendor. But an official told Kandi that she would need not just one license, but a license for every place she planned to set up to sell food. That’s ridiculous, and probably unconstitutional.
Ask to see it in writing
Now it’s possible that the person who told Kandi about the multiple license rule just didn’t know the real answer, and made something up that sounded likely. It’s also possible that the city actually has a rule like that, and has never been called out on it or forced to defend it. So the first step is to ask (nicely) to see the rule in writing.
This way, the government official has the opportunity to get familiar with what is actually written, in case they just don’t know. And if the rule isn’t actually written down, but has just been passed along from person to person like a folk story, this will set things straight. So ask to see where the rule is written in the code or ordinance. That way you’ll know whether it’s real or not.
The Institute for Justice helps street vendors: Does your city have laws that seem designed to keep you from competing with other businesses? Do these laws make it difficult—or even impossible—for you to run your business? If so, we can help. Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the rule isn’t written in the ordinance, the officials should have no problem acknowledging that you don’t really need multiple licenses.
If the rule IS written in the ordinance, you have taken the first step to getting it changed. Because that kind of rule is not constitutional. It’s because the law has to treat businesses fairly. For example, if the local rule says a mobile food vendor needs a license for every location, then that same rule has to be applied to other businesses, too. Would they expect a pizza restaurant to have a license for every location where they deliver pizza? Nope. Now I’m not a lawyer, but you get the point, right?
Legalize Street Food (Institute for Justice)
If you run into a written law that seems unfair like this, check out the Institute for Justice. They have a whole initiative geared at legalizing street food. There are resources you can use to explain things to your local licensing office, and they even have lawyers who take some cases for free, and help people get rules changed so they can run mobile food businesses without unfair laws making things difficult.
Once you get your licensing taken care of, you will be able to go after the best locations for your street food business. You can do this by trial and error or you can get a jump start with the Vend Anywhere course.
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