Earlier this year, government agents showed up at Rafael Lopez’s business unannounced. They told him that he had to shut down immediately, or face up to $2,000 in fines per day. He was devastated — he’d sunk a good chunk of his savings into opening El Bandera Jalisco, a food truck that he operated on private property on Broadway.
When he asked the agents why, they explained that he was operating down the street from a restaurant and that San Antonio prohibits food trucks from operating within 300 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant. They told Rafael that his only chance at reopening his food truck was to get permission from the restaurant owner. A few days later, Rafael walked over and asked for permission, the owner refused, and El Bandera Jalisco was forced to close for good.
For over a decade, San Antonio has shut down food trucks such as El Bandera Jalisco for operating within 300 feet of a restaurant or other business that serves food, such as a grocery or convenience store. The law applies even if food trucks operate on private property. These 300-foot “no-vending” zones serve only one purpose: to protect San Antonio’s nearly 5,000 restaurants from competition.
Unsurprisingly, this shortsighted protectionist law has made it very difficult for entrepreneurs like Rafael and many others to open and operate food trucks in San Antonio. Austin, on the other hand, has a vibrant food-truck community. Indeed, there are three times as many food trucks per capita roaming the streets of Austin as there are in San Antonio.
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