US Regulations Make Street Vending Difficult

Thanks to low start-up costs, street vending has offered countless US entrepreneurs – particularly immigrants and others with little income or capital – opportunities for self-sufficiency and upward mobility. With the booming popularity of food trucks selling creative, cutting edge cuisines, as well as a sagging economy, interest in street selling is perhaps greater than ever. Nonetheless, a complicated web of regulations in cities nationwide tie up would-be vendors, making it needlessly difficult or even impossible to set up shop in many cities, says the Institute for Justice.

There are five common types of vending regulations in the 50 largest U.S. cities examined:

  • Cities ban vending on public property for some or all goods.

  • Certain entire areas are off-limits to vendors.

  • Cities ban vendors from setting up near brick-and-mortar businesses selling the same or similar goods.

  • Five of the 50 largest cities prevent mobile vendors from stopping and parking unless flagged by a customer.

  • In some cities, mobile vendors may stay in one spot for only short amounts of time.

    Often in intent, and certainly in effect, these regulations do little but protect established brick-and-mortar businesses from upstart competitors. Instead of supporting economic protectionism, cities can and should encourage vibrant vending cultures by drafting clear, simple and modern rules that are narrowly tailored to address real health and safety issues.

    Source: Erin Norman, Robert Frommer, Bert Gall and Lisa Knepper, Streets of Dreams, Institute for Justice, July 2011.

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    First published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, United States

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 16 August 2011
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