While lunch time on weekdays means lines upon lines of food trucks outside City Hall, the roving businesses are still legally barred from selling their specialties within 300 feet of competing brick-and-mortar restaurants anywhere in Baltimore. Today, Mayor Catherine Pugh announced some new options to appease vendors who just want to attract paying customers, with 10 newly designated food truck zones spread across Baltimore.
The new zones will stretch south from Loyola University Maryland to an intersection near the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy downtown, and east from Coppin State University to the Baltimore City Public Schools district office parking lot at 200 E. North Avenue. They’ll add to the existing ones the city designated in 2013 in the downtown business district.
In an announcement outside the War Memorial building on Wednesday morning, Mayor Pugh said, “the establishment of these additional locations will provide citizens with safe and easy access to a variety of food choices.”
In addition to the above locations, the city has created new food truck areas at Rogers Station, Wabash Avenue at Mt. Hope Drive near Reisterstown Plaza, Sinai Hospital and Penn Station. Two others will be added at the University of Baltimore campus and Franklin Street between Park Avenue and Howard Street once construction has finished in those places.
All zones will have room for two food trucks, and hours will be typically run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The change offers a response from the city to a lawsuit brought by Nikki McGowan of Madame BBQ and Joey Vinano of Pizza di Joey last year to challenge a 300-foot food truck barrier ordinance around existing restaurants.
The pair of culinary entrepreneurs sued the city last spring, represented by the Virginia-based Institute for Justice. Attorneys have argued the rule kills competition and hurts food trucks. Former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake responded by calling the suit “much ado about nothing,” and the city attempted to have it thrown out in court. A district judge denied that request last fall, letting the case move forward.
Similar lawsuits have been filed in South Florida, Chicago and San Antonio, among other places, according to the Institute for Justice, which is representing the Baltimore food truck owners in their case. San Antonio and Hialeah, Fla., lawmakers repealed their ordinances in response to court rulings, while in Chicago, a high court ultimately decided the city’s barrier rule could remain intact.
Pugh announced the new zones near the same place outside City Hall where food trucks line up daily to serve customers, with vendors present for the news. She was joined by Baltimore City Health Department staff and food truck owners.
While many food truck entrepreneurs welcomed the new zones, Institute for Justice attorney Greg Reed, who’s representing the parties in the pending suit against the city, said it doesn’t solve their problem.
“If the city actually wants a solution to the anti-competitive, unconstitutional 300-foot ban, then the answer is not to just create more food truck zones. The answer is to repeal the 300-foot zone,” he said. “Adding more zones to empower mobile vending entrepreneurs isn’t going to give Baltimoreans the choices they deserve in deciding where they want to eat.”
“Don’t get me wrong, more zones are better than less,” Reed added. “But they don’t fundamentally change the fact the 300-foot ban prevents mobile vendors from operating in much of the city.”
This story has been updated.