Broward County Debates Food Trucks: Restaurant Owner Wants Them Banned!
"We have so many restaurants struggling to stay afloat in Sunrise," he told the Sun Sentinel. "I see it as a disadvantage to the businesses that the food trucks come in here."
Talk of a ban has sparked an outcry from local food truck owners and onlookers irked by what they call an attempt to stamp out competition.
Some argue a ban on food trucks would be downright illegal.
"The government is not allowed to make protectionist laws that protect one business over another," said Justin Pearson, executive director of the Institute for Justice, Florida Chapter. "That's unconstitutional."
On Dec. 6, Pearson sent commissioners a letter saying the civil liberties law firm has already filed suits challenging laws in Hialeah, Chicago and El Paso, Texas that restrict vendors from operating within a certain distance of their brick-and-mortar competitors.
A Sunrise resident came to City Hall on Tuesday to admonish Scuotto for using his office to try to stifle competition.
"Let the little guy have a chance," said the woman, who declined to give her name. "I think they should be allowed to flourish."
With a red face and raised voice, Scuotto told the woman the city already has a ban on food trucks and he "can't wait" until Jan. 8, when city officials are expected to debate the issue.
City spokeswoman Christine Pfeffer, however, said Sunrise doesn't have a true ban on food trucks. "We have a ban on outdoor sales," she said.
Pfeffer said a Sunrise business wanting to host a food truck event would be required to apply for a special permit.
Rolling restaurants have visited Sunrise during the past two years, but none have been cited because city officials found out after the fact, Pfeffer said.
"Unless you catch someone, you can't cite them," she said.
Robb Muise, a food truck operator from Oakland Park, says he is keeping a close eye on what happens in Sunrise. He plans to get a group of food truck operators to attend the upcoming commission meeting to protest an all-out ban.
Ryan Olesky, a Fort Lauderdale resident who tends bar at a downtown Hollywood restaurant, emailed the Sun Sentinel to accuse Scuotto of being un-American.
"Just another example of a lawmaker doing something for personal gain," he wrote.
Even the Greater Sunrise Chamber of Commerce opposes a ban on food truck events in Sunrise, says executive director Mike Jacobs.
Citing South Florida's thriving food truck industry, Jacobs said Sunrise would be missing out if it banned them altogether.