Judge Dismisses Thousands of Dollars in Fines Against Arlington Food Truck

The popular Seoul Food truck is celebrating after its case was dismissed on Monday. Owners Anna Shil and JP Goree faced up to $2,500 in fines and one year in prison for allegedly violating Arlington, Va.’s street vending law. Under Arlington County’s code, it’s illegal for food trucks to vend in the same spot for more than 60 minutes. Selling for 61 minutes is a Class 1 misdemeanor, the same penalty for reckless driving, DUIs and assault.

The couple moved their truck but were cited by police for allegedly not moving it “far enough” to comply with the law. Yet the law never specifies just how far a vendor needs to move in order to not break the law. On three separate occasions, Seoul Food was given three different directives on how far the truck needed to move. Citing the vagueness of the ordinance General District Judge Thomas J. Kelley dismissed the case. Let’s hope Anna and JP can continue to cook up Korean fusion delicacies like their kimchee quesadillas and bibimbap in peace.

Unfortunately, Seoul Food isn’t the only food truck that’s been harassed by Arlington police. From late July to late August 2012, Arlington County police issued 10 court summonses to seven different street food vendors. The crackdown emerged after police received more complaints, mostly from brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Ironically, the creation of the 60-minute rule was a step in the right direction. Until 2008, vendors in Arlington County were forced to leave their parking spot after only five minutes. Together with the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington, Anna called for the lifting of these still-arduous parking restrictions: “I’m happy this is behind us and we can focus back on making the food we love, serving our regulars and preparing to open our brick-and-mortar restaurant. I hope this case spurs the country to get rid of its 60-minute rule.”

Arlington officials could start by reading the Institute for Justice’s recent report, Food-Truck Freedom: How to Build Better Food-Truck Laws in Your City.

— Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice

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