HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) – Texas’ 13 Court of Appeals reversed the 2020 decision by the Cameron County 138th District Court that deemed South Padre Island’s food truck restrictions unconstitutional, granting the city immunity from the food trucks’ lawsuit.
In February 2019, the Institute for Justice (IJ) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ericka Lerma, owner of SPI-based food truck SurfVive, and Anubis and Adonai Avalos, owners of Brownsville-based food truck Chile De Árbol, on the grounds that the city’s ordinance regulations were unconstitutional.
The food trucks argued that the ordinance regulations that allow only 12 trucks to operate on the island and have a brick-and-mortar restaurant sign off on their permit went against their “constitutional right for economic equality.”
“Not being able to open a small food truck in my own hometown because of an ordinance designed to keep people out of the market is heartbreaking, and it’s not very Texan,” said SurfVive’s Erica Lerma in a press release sent by IJ. “Everyone should have the opportunity to follow their dreams and choose a profession or business that they love without having to overcome barriers created by people to fence out competition.”
On December 8, 2020, the Cameron County 138th District Court Judge Arturo Nelson ruled that some South Padre Island ordinances pertaining to food trucks violated the Texas Constitution.
Now, Texas’ 13 Court of Appeals has reversed that decision saying that the food trucks “did not present evidence to rebut the presumption that the ordinance is constitutional.” No damages were granted to the food trucks.
The plaintiffs, food truck owners represented by the IJ, plan to appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court, according to the release sent by IJ.
A press release sent by the city stated that the “opinion by the Court of Appeals is consistent with and agrees with the City’s position all along that the “food truck” ordinance is constitutional, promotes and protects the general health and safety of the public, and promotes economic development, which are legitimate governmental interests.”