Town’s Ban on Food Trucks is Unconstitutional, Lawsuit Asserts

‘If this small town board in Door County can use its power for naked protectionism, then entrepreneurs across the state are at risk…’

Town's Ban on Food Trucks is Unconstitutional, Lawsuit Asserts

White Cottage Red Door co-owner Chris Hadraba/PHOTO: Institute for Justice

(Lionel Parrott, Liberty Headlines) White Cottage Red Door, based in Door County, Wisconsin, specializes in cherry and apple pies. So it wasn’t a surprise when the shop decided to get on board the “food truck” trend, setting one up in its parking lot.

What was a surprise: when the shop was served with a ban.

According to a press release from the Institute for Justice, the town of Gibraltar decided to prohibit all businesses on wheels after White Cottage’s food truck became popular.

The chairman of the Gibraltar town board owns a local brick-and-mortar restaurant.

In response, White Cottage Red Door warned the town that their ban defied the Constitution of Wisconsin. Now, with help from the Institute of Justice, the shop filed a lawsuit in Door County Circuit Court.

An attorney with the IJ, Milad Emam, said: “White Cottage Red Door just wants to sell burgers and barbecue on its own property. But the Gibraltar town board is stopping them to protect special interests from competition.”

He continued: “That’s not just wrong, it is unconstitutional. The Wisconsin Constitution prohibits governments from picking winners and losers.”

Hoping to use the food truck to sell burgers, the owners of the shop bought the truck and also earned a mobile restaurant license and a zoning permit. Unfortunately, their first customer was the town constable, who told them their new operation was illegal.

As it turns out, he was wrong. No matter, the town board decided to change the law—but not before trying to persuade Door County to revoke the truck’s permit. When that didn’t happen, Gibraltar passed a new ordinance banning all businesses on wheels. The penalty for violating the ordinance could be up to $500 a day, something a small business like White Cottage Red Door could not risk.

“Sadly, the Gibraltar town board is just one of many local governing bodies that see food truck entrepreneurs as a threat instead of an opportunity,” said IJ Senior Attorney Robert Frommer.

“If this small town board in Door County can use its power for naked protectionism, then entrepreneurs across the state are at risk,” Frommer said. “White Cottage Red Door is not just fighting for its own rights, but for those of other Wisconsinites who see opening a food truck as a viable path to prosperity.”