Jim Nuccio and Gabriel Wiesen are two young entrepreneurs who want to operate their Beavers Coffee & Donuts food truck in Evanston, but one thing stands in their way: a city ordinance that allows only food trucks run by “licensed food establishments,” such as brick-and-mortar restaurants, to operate there. Jim and Gabriel do not own a restaurant in Evanston, so they cannot qualify for a license. The city has given no health or safety explanation for this requirement – instead, its only possible purpose is to protect established restaurants from food truck competition.
That is why the Liberty Justice Center stepped in and filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jim and Gabriel, taking on the unconstitutionality of this irrational and arbitrary ordinance. In response, the city still hasn’t provided a single health or safety reason for this requirement in the ordinance, but instead moved to dismiss Jim and Gabriel’s suit, claiming that they haven’t suffered any injury because they never applied for a license. As the city’s argument goes, Jim and Gabriel should have applied for a license even though the ordinance expressly says they can’t get one because they don’t own a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Evanston.
We believe the city’s position is absurd because it is essentially saying that citizens can’t trust that Evanston’s laws actually mean what they say. Moreover, innovative entrepreneurs like Jim and Gabriel should not be required to divert time and money away from building their businesses to go through a licensing process in which they are doomed before they start.
Unfortunately, just this week the circuit court ruled that Jim and Gabriel must apply for a license before they can challenge the ordinance and gave them 60 days to amend their complaint to do so.
As the Liberty Justice Center continues to fight for Jim and Gabriel’s constitutional rights, there is something the citizens of Evanston can do right now as well: go to your city officials and demand that they explain how the brick-and-mortar requirement serves any purpose other than to stifle competition and consumer choice in Evanston. And ask them to repeal this ordinance. These needless government restrictions are not only unconstitutional, but they also are bad policy. Evanston’s unemployment rate was 7.5 percent in 2011, up from 3.5 percent in 2006. City officials should be doing all they can to get people back to work, not imposing needless obstacles. Indeed, city officials should be doing all they can to roll out the welcome mat for hardworking entrepreneurs like Jim and Gabriel who simply want to make a living by bringing their delicious gourmet donuts and coffee to Evanston residents.
Click here to contact Evanston officials.