(The Center Square) – Food truck operators from outside of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, filed a lawsuit Monday that challenges the city’s $100 per permit fee, while local trucks pay $100 a year.
The Beacon Center of Tennessee filed a federal civil rights lawsuit for two food truck operators, saying the ordinance violates the operators’ right to earn a living and their right to equality before the law.
“Mt. Juliet’s discrimination against food trucks from outside the city is unfair and unconstitutional,” Beacon Director of Legal Affairs Wen Fa said. “Outside of the startling difference between paying $100 per day as an out-of-city resident compared to just $100 per year for city residents, it becomes even more appalling when you realize what these food truck operators did for Mt. Juliet residents in their time of need.”
The lawsuit comes more than three years after the city suspended its fee in March 2020 to encourage out-of-town food truck operators to help feed the community following a devasting tornado.
A month later, Mt. Juliet reimposed its out-of-town restrictions, saying local restaurants had reopened and the food trucks took business away from local restaurants.
“Despite stepping up to help Mt. Juliet after the tornado, food trucks like Funk Seoul Brother and Chivanada are now being punished by Mt. Juliet’s protectionist food truck law,” Fa said. “This double standard needs to end and if we are victorious, every food truck operator in the state will be treated equally under the law.”
Earlier this year, the City Council approved a pilot program for food trucks that allows trucks based within the city limits to operate with a $100 annual permit. Food trucks based outside the city must pay $100 per day.
The Beacon Institute said the differential treatment of in-city and out-of-city food trucks violates the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under the federal and Tennessee constitutions.