El Paso Vending

Castaneda v. City of El Paso
El Paso Mobile Food Vendors Challenge City’s Effort to Run Them Out of Town

IJ Client Yvonne Castenada

IJ Client Maria Robledo
El Paso Video Click to Play

El Paso Video Click to Play
Download: Map of Vending Prohibitions (PDF)

Should the city of El Paso, Texas, be allowed to turn itself into a No-Vending Zone in order to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants from competition?

The Institute for Justice sought an answer to this question in a major federal lawsuit filed January 26, 2011 on behalf of four El Paso mobile food vendors.

This lawsuit launched a National Street Vending Initiative, a nationwide litigation and activism effort to vindicate the right of street vendors to earn an honest living.  The case against the city of El Paso challenged the constitutionality of the city’s mobile vending restrictions that made it illegal for vendors to operate within 1,000 feet of a restaurant or convenience store, and prohibited them from stopping to await customers anywhere in the city.

In response to the lawsuit, El Paso officials passed a new ordinance eliminating the protectionist regulations against mobile food vendors that formed the basis of the claims raised.  This is a major victory for El Paso mobile food vendors and for economic liberty.  The new ordinance comes only three months after the case was filed.

The federal lawsuit challenged the old ordinance because it violated the vendors’ constitutional right to earn an honest living free from unreasonable and arbitrary government interference.  The 1,000-foot separation requirement and the prohibition on waiting for customers curbside did nothing to protect public health or safety—both provisions simply protected brick-and-mortar businesses from competition.

While people across the country embrace mobile vendors for the vitality and creativity they bring to a local restaurant scene, cities like El Paso have decided to threaten vendors with thousands of dollars in fines and effectively run them out of town.  But economic protectionism is not a valid use of government power.  IJ’s victory in El Paso highlights that it is both wrong and unconstitutional for local governments to place burdensome restrictions on street vendors in order to protect brick-and-mortar businesses from competition.


Essential Background


Background on this case

Client Photo

Launch Release:El Paso Mobile Food Vendors File Major Federal Lawsuit Against City Client Video
Latest Release: Victory for El Paso Mobile Food Vendors; City Enacts New Ordinance Allowing Vendors to Compete Openly in the Marketplace in Response to Federal Constitutional Challenge (April 26, 2011)

Case Launch Press Conference Video (January 26, 2011)

 Legal Briefs and Decisions

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


January 26, 2011

Court Filed:


US Federal Court for the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division

Decision(s): none available
Current Court: US Federal Court for the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division



Complete: Dismissed after the city changed existing law
Next Key Date:  TBD

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: El Paso Begins Repealing Protectionist Restrictions on Mobile Vendors(April 19, 2011)

Map of El Paso Mobile Vending Prohibition



Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: Victory for El Paso Street Vendors: IJ Scores a Quick and Decisive Win in National Battle to Protect Economic Liberty; Liberty & Law (June 2011)

Article: Mean Streets: El Paso Targets Mobile Vendors With Protectionist Regulations; Liberty & Law (April 2011)

Video: Mean Streets: El Paso's Attack on Mobile Vendors - Case Launch Press Conf. 1/26/11; (February 3, 2011)

Video: El Paso Street Vending Lawsuit Has National Implications; KJLA ABC (January 28, 2011)

Video: "The Man" vs. Food KTSM NBC 9; KTSM NBC (January 27, 2011)

Video: Mobile Vendors in El Paso Texas Can't Operate Within 1,000 Feet of Brick-and-Mortar Competitors; (January 26, 2011)

Related Case: Chicago Food Trucks - Burke v. City of Chicago 


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