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Mt. Juliet gets federal lawsuit over food truck permit fees

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Mt. Juliet gets federal lawsuit over food truck permit fees

Nov 20, 2023 | 2:40 pm ET
By J. Holly McCall
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Mt. Juliet gets federal lawsuit over food truck permit fees
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(Photo: Getty Images)

The Beacon Center, a Nashville-based free-market think tank, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Mt. Juliet over an ordinance that charges out-of-town food trucks more than it does food trucks based within the city.

The suit, filed on behalf of three food truck operators — Eileen and Michael Maltese of Mikey’s Pizza, William “B.J.” Lofback of Funk Seoul Brother and Daniel Yarzagaray of Chivanada — alleges Mt. Juliet is  violating both the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions by preventing the plaintiffs from earning a living without unreasonable government interference.

To operate in Mt. Juliet, food truck purveyors must obtain permits from the city in order to serve food within city limits. Operators of food trucks based in Mt. Juliet pay $100 per year while the city charges those based in other municipalities $100 per day, making operation financially prohibitive, the suit alleges.

“Mt. Juliet’s discrimination against food trucks from outside the city is unfair and unconstitutional,” said Wen Fa, Beacon Center Legal Affairs Director. “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.”

Fa said the three plaintiffs donated food to Mt. Juliet residents in the aftermath of a March 2, 2020 tornado.

Prior to 2020, Mt. Juliet officials limited the operation of food trucks in the city prior to no more than six occasions annually, but but they waived restrictions after the tornado and during COVID-era restaurant closures, allowing the food trucks to provide safe alternatives to indoor dining. As brick-and-mortar restaurants began to reopen, the city reinstated the permit process in July 2023, which reestablished the two-tier permitting process in order to protect local businesses.

Food truck complaint