Following last month's New Orleans City Council passage of an ordinance — nearly a year in the marking — that redrafted the city's decades-old mobile vending (aka food truck) laws, Mayor Mitch Landrieu vetoed the measure May 1. Landrieu said he feared the ordinance violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
"It would be unwise to sign this ordinance into law in its current form when it appears certain that it will be invalidated by the court," Landrieu wrote in his letter to Council Clerk Peggy Lewis.
Landrieu wrote that even the ordinance's supporters have expressed its unconstitutionality, including its author, Councilwoman-At-Large Stacy Head, who voted in its favor yet also spoke against several last-minute amendments. As written, the ordinance would open 75 additional food truck permits, increase the amount of time food trucks can operate (from a previous 45-minute rule), require trucks to operate within 300 feet of a restroom and make trucks park at least 200 feet from brick-and-mortar restaurants. (That proposed physical distance was changed from its originally proposed 50 feet to 100 feet, then to a proposed 300 feet and finally to a compromise of 200 feet.)
Landrieu's equal protection issue with the ordinance falls under that distance provision, which even Head called "egregious" at last month's meeting.
"My veto notwithstanding, I strongly support Councilmember At-Large Head and the City Council's efforts to update the City Code regulations pertaining to itinerant vendors, including those governing frozen seafood, vegetable and fruit, and food trucks," Landrieu wrote. "I have directed my staff to work with the council to immediately address this issue and develop changes which will result in mobile food vending laws which are legal, fair, enforceable and best serve the industry and the people of New Orleans."
By week's end, Head introduced a stripped-down version of the ordinance —and plopped the issue back in the mayor's lap. "I am disappointed that the mayor has vetoed the food truck ordinance," she wrote, "but I await his suggested improvements as he promised he would provide in his veto statement."
Existing New Orleans food truck operators continue to plan events — the "Rolling Through" food truck series will feature trucks serving in different local neighborhoods every Tuesday in May and June from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (See "Fork and Center," p. 40, for details.) Meanwhile, the City Council will have a hearing May 16 at which the veto may be overturned. — ALEX WOODWARD