By Gaige Davila
More food trucks can operate on South Padre Island, if they can secure a permit.
The City of South Padre Island has added 6 more food truck permits to the 12 previously issued, meaning 18 food trucks total can operate in the city.
City council members unanimously increased the available permits during a meeting on May 5.
Councilwoman Eva Jean Dalton motioned to increase the permits. Councilman Ken Medders seconded the motion.
Dalton said the permit increase was based on increasing demand for food trucks on South Padre Island.
City staff also recommended the increased permits due to increased demand for food trucks.
The city’s relationship with food trucks has been contentious. The owners of SurfVive, a South Padre Island-based nonprofit with a food truck, and Chile De Arbol, a since-closed Brownsville-based food truck, sued the City of South Padre Island for what they called “economic protectionism” on behalf of the city’s restaurant owners.
The city, via a committee consisting only of brick-and-mortar restaurant owners, drafted a food truck ordinance in July 2015. The ordinance became city law in March 2016 via city council vote. Then-mayor Barry Patel explored the idea months before the ordinance came to city council, assigning Environmental Health Director Victor Baldovinos to explore food truck ordinances in cities across the country, the PRESS reported in 2015. Initially, only 6 food truck permits were issued.
A District Court judge ruled the city’s food truck ordinance, requiring mobile food vendors getting written permission from a brick-and-mortar restaurant owner and capping the available permits at 12, violated the state constitution.
The city continued enforcing the ordinance, however, and are appealing the District Court’s decision.
Arif Panju, the lead attorney in SurfVive v. South Padre Island, said regardless if the city adds more permits, the cap is unconstitutional.
“Adding permits for the next six people in line doesn’t change the fact that everyone else is fenced out, and it doesn’t change the reality that the district court struck down the cap itself,” Panju told the PRESS.
SurfVive and Chile De Arbol have filed a petition in the Texas Supreme Court to stop the city from enforcing its food truck ordinance. The city has until May 17 to file a response to the petition. A response isn’t required, however, meaning the Texas Supreme Court could decide to enforce the ruling any time after the deadline.