SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — For now, no changes will be made for food truck operators in this coastal city.
The City of South Padre Island decided to table food truck ordinances that were up for discussion during a special meeting held yesterday morning.
In response to a recommendation made by city attorney Ricardo Navarro, city council members unanimously voted to table consideration and action to amend, modify or rescind ordinances regarding the regulation of mobile food trucks.
Unsure of what kind of changes were being considered, several operators of food trucks such as Breaking Bread and Baja Cali spoke during the meeting’s public comment windows before and after council voted.
Jerry Leal, owner and founder of Pineapple Ninjas food truck, gave an update on his business and made suggestions to council.
“We’ve come to understand permitting as we go,” he said. “So understanding there might be limits sometimes is difficult, which is why I was thinking of starting a food truck committee so it can help (food truck owners) understand why applying these ordinances benefits us.”
Leal said his business has four full-time employees and six part-time, all of whom he says are dependent on the continuance of the city’s food truck ordinances.
Leal said in addition to providing jobs, food trucks in general help with foot traffic.
“I’m working on my third unit on the Island so there is opportunity to grow. It’s just understanding the concept and the why behind everything,” Leal said to the council at the beginning of the meeting. “We’re really hoping you don’t revoke the permits obviously because we’ve committed our entire life now to this.”
Also during the meeting, the city council went into executive session to receive legal advice regarding a food truck related lawsuit listed on the city agenda as Surfvive, Anubis Avalos and Adonai Ramses Avalos vs. City of South Padre Island.
According to Brownsville Herald archives, on Feb. 28, Surfvive became one of two clients represented by attorneys from the Institute for Justice (IJ), who filed a lawsuit in Cameron County District Court to challenge South Padre Island’s food truck regulations, arguing the rules are unconstitutional.
Brownsville-based food truck Chile de Arbol is also part of the lawsuit.
A press release from the IJ, states the meeting comes one day before the city and its attorney are due in court to explain why they shouldn’t face legal sanctions.
The press release further states that the IJ moved for sanctions after the city was a no-show at its deposition to justify its anti-competitive food truck restrictions on the record.
“If the city thinks that amending its food truck laws — or outlawing food trucks altogether — will somehow eliminate our constitutional challenge against the city, it is mistaken,” IJ senior attorney Afrif Panju, who manages IJ’s office in Austin, stated in a press release. “Texans have a constitutional right to earn an honest living in an occupation or business, free from unreasonable interference by the government. Using public power to pick winners and losers in the marketplace, here by hobbling food trucks at the behest of local restaurant owners, violates that right.”
Ultimately, Navarro made the recommendation to postpone any action regarding food truck ordinances until further notice because he needed more time to “get up to speed” with the lawsuit.