Need Help With Vending Laws in Your City? The Institute for Justice

Jonathan Amato

image from the Institute for Justice.


The Institute for Justice National Street Vending Initiative (IJ)  is  a Washington, D.C. based non-profit that works to create best practice street vending laws in different cities across the U.S. The IJ will be in Portland on Saturday, September 14, 2013 for the Roam Mobile Food Conference, presenting to, and meeting one-on-one with vendors, government policy makers and street food advocates. If you are interested in meeting with Institute for Justice, you can sign up for Roam at

From the IJ’s website:

Through its National Street Vending Initiative, the Institute for Justice works to defeat anti-competitive restrictions that violate the constitutional rights of street vendors to earn an honest living.  This initiative combines litigating against these restrictions in state and federal courts, helping vendors organize in order to fight these restrictions through activism, and educating the public about the importance—both economically and socially—of street vendors.

Are you a mobile food vendor, policy maker, non-profit, or street food advocate struggling with vending laws in your city? From restrictive zoning and other laws that push food trucks and carts out, out of date ordinances that prevent small street food businesses from being able to make a living, excessive and impossible to navigate permitting processes and fees… in some American cities street food is all but illegal.

We know this is a huge topical regionally and nationally here at Food Carts Portland. Every week we receive inquiries from all over the U.S. as well as from cities closer to home: “help, my city doesn’t allow mobile vending”, or “My city government wants to change the laws to get rid of food trucks and carts, what can I do?”

On the positive side, many city planners, government officials and other policy makers often contact us as well, recognizing the benefits of street vending to cities citing supporting the growth of more small- locally owned business owners, putting positive uses on vacant or blighted land, creating active positive uses in urban areas, and often serving disadvantaged populations and neighborhoods. Yet what some best practices in mobile vending policies? What are fair, streamlined, and legal laws and permitting processes cities can adopt to support mobile vending, while at the same time balancing community health, safety, and livability issues?

While Portland, Oregon is known for having a very supportive government regarding food carts and trucks, and is considered a model city in street food vending, other cities aren’t so lucky. The Institute for Justice is a strong and effective advocate for better mobile vending laws, provides legal and technical support, as well as several educational resources. Recent successes by the IJ for better vending laws include New Orleans, LA; Washington, DC; and Atlanta, GA. The IJ continues to assist many more in progress including, but not limited to, Chicago, IL; Akron, OH; Las Vegas, NV; and Knoxville, TN.

image from

image from

In addition to the the Institute for Justice, Roam Mobile Food Conference on September 14, 2013 in Portland, OR is also hosting at least eight different city governments, several mobile food vendor associations from around the country, and best practice policy leaders such as Multnomah County Department of Environment Health for presentations, meetings, and other education and networking opportunities.

Here at Food Carts Portland we know the food in street food is the main attraction to writing and reading about mobile food. However, we also know mobile vending continues to resonate locally and nationally because it is about good economic development, helps create more small-locally owned businesses, contributes to a healthy urban and cultural landscape, and is an incredible community benefit overall. Can you imagine what Portland would be like without food carts and trucks? We believe other cities deserve the chance to have strong, fair and progressive mobile vending laws. If this topic is of interest, check out more at or for specific inquiries, please contact Roam will be held at the Double Tree Hilton, Lloyd District in Portland, Oregon on September 14, 2013. The cost for the conference is only $235, and a special one-day start-up boot camp for aspiring mobile food vendors is only $175.

The Institute for Justice: Fight for Your Right to Street Food!



  1. Shawn Brown says

    I have been interested in creating a mobile food business in my city (Bandon, Oregon). I contacted the city planning commission and was angry at the fact after I spent 50k for a fully self reliant food tailor that met the county, state. local health and federal laws that the city wanted to charge me over 5k before i even started to do business. stating that it needed to do an impact study to sewage, sewage drains, environmental etc…. So I have paid 50k for my food tailor, 12k for certs and licences and now Im supposed to pay for a feasibility study……. it is a self contained tailor, fully functional full menu restaurant that can provide restaurant quality food at 1/2 or less the price of brick and mortar businesses. So now I am required to pay way more to start my business then a brick an mortar business. how is this constitutional?

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