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Carolina Beach gives food trucks the green light

Published: Aug. 29, 2018 at 7:48 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2018 at 10:09 AM EDT
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CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WECT) - Reversing an earlier decision, the Carolina Beach Town Council overturned part of an ordinance that would have limited what food trucks could operate in town limits.

On Tuesday, the council voted to change the ordinance it originally passed on April 10.

The vote came just a little over a week after several food truck owners filed a lawsuit against the town, arguing that the ordinance showed favoritism toward certain businesses and was in violation of the state constitution.

In that ordinance, a food truck operator would have been required to have had a brick and mortar restaurant within Carolina Beach for at least a year before being able to operate a truck within town limits.

Attorney Justin Pearson with the Institute for Justice, who was representing the group of food truck owners, said that he and his clients were glad the town decided to go back and amend the ordinance.

In a press release on Wednesday, Pearson said he was disappointed that it took the lawsuit to get the town to change its mind.

"I'm hopeful that last night's vote will signal the end to the town's attempt to use the power of government to favor a handful of established businesses over the region's entrepreneurs," Pearson said in the release. "We hope that Carolina Beach realizes that when a town tries to restrict entrepreneurs for the benefit of existing businesses, everyone—customers and business owners, alike—loses."

The council voted unanimously to amend the ordinance after going into a closed session to discuss the lawsuit and other matters.

Carolina Beach Mayor Joe Benson said he couldn't talk about what was said in the closed session or comment on why the council reversed course, but said food trucks are now welcome.

Council members also unilaterally supported the idea of having town staff bring the food truck issue back before them in order to explore it further, as well as have a public hearing.

The law firm indicated in the release that the vote to bring the issue back up gives the colleagues pause.

"Our lawsuit is far from over," said Johanna Talcott, an attorney for the institute. "The vote indicates that the town wants to abide by the state constitution, but the town also indicated that it still intends to pursue regulations regarding food trucks. We will continue to monitor those conversations and press for laws that foster open competition, entrepreneurship and, most importantly, more food options for Carolina Beach's residents and visitors."

Food truck owners, for their part, said in the release that they think the town is finally listening to its citizens.

"I'm very excited, very happy for all food truck owners in the area," said Michelle Rock, owner of T'Geaux Boys and Momma Rock's Desserts. "We're just very happy Carolina Beach has decided to lift restrictions and allow us to serve the public and allow us to serve food truck food."

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