Hialeah Vending

Membreno v. City of Hialeah
Vindicating the Right to Earn an Honest Living Under the Florida Constitution

IJ client Silvio Membreno.

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In October 2011, the Institute for Justice Florida Chapter filed a lawsuit in state court on behalf of street vendors.  These vendors are challenging a law passed by the city of Hialeah, Fla. (located near Miami), that not only makes vendors’ work more dangerous by forcing them to constantly be on the move rather than vend in one location, but also was purposefully anticompetitive—making it impossible for vendors to compete against politically powerful brick-and-mortar businesses.

The heart of the Institute for Justice’s challenge is that, under the state of Florida’s constitution, the government must protect the rights of individuals to pursue an honest living free from unnecessary and arbitrary government-imposed restrictions.  Likewise, it is not the government’s place to put in place anticompetitive restrictions that arbitrarily protect one business while harming another.
In January 2013, in response to the vendors’ lawsuit, the city amended its law to remove the anticompetitive proximity restriction, which had required vendors to remain 300 feet from competing brick-and-mortar stores.  However, the city has maintained its anticompetitive and unconstitutional prohibitions on standing still and on displaying merchandise.  Effectively, the city is telling vendors, “We’ll sell you a license to vend, but you can’t vend in any effective way, and you can’t show people what you’re selling.” On July 23, 2014, a Miami trial court held that the city’s law did not violate the Florida Constitution.  IJ has appealed the court’s decision, and is now litigating the case before the Florida Third District Court of Appeal.

Street vendors are a core part of the American Dream.  Whether it is selling newspapers  in New York City or hot dogs in Chicago or cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, the image of a hard-working street vendor climbing his way up the economic ladder is familiar to Americans from coast to coast.  Vending provides a perfect means of entering the economic mainstream, especially for the poor and newcomers to our nation, because vending doesn’t require a great deal of financial capital or formal education; it merely requires a dream for a better life and hard work.

Unfortunately, local governments are making it all but impossible for street vendors to earn an honest living.  That is what is happening in Hialeah.  Although street vending is legal in Hialeah, city laws designed to protect brick-and-mortar businesses from competition make it illegal to be an effective street vendor.  In an effort to fight these anticompetitive laws, local vendors continue to fight alongside the Institute for Justice’s Florida chapter to stand up for their economic liberty. 


Essential Background

Audio, Video and Images

Backgrounder: Vindicating the Right to Earn an Honest Living Under the Florida Constitution

Client Video

Client Photos

Latest Release: Hialeah Legislation Would Make Life Harder For Vendors & Consumers (December 10, 2012)

Launch Release: South Florida Entrepreneurs & New Florida Public Interest Law Firm Sue City of Hialeah to End Unconstitutional Regulations (October 13, 2011)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Appellants' Initial Brief (April 17, 2015)

Order on Cross Motions for Summary Judgment (July 23, 2014)

Hialeah’s Response to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment (June 11, 2014)

Plaintiffs’ Memo of Law in Opposition to Hialeah’s Motion for Summary Judgment (June 11, 2014)

Hialeah’s Supplemental Memo in Support of Its Motion for Summary Judgment (May 23, 2014)

Plaintiffs’ Memo of Law in Support of Its Motion for Summary Judgment (May 23, 2014)

Hialeah's Motion for Summary Judgment (January 13, 2014)

Hialeah's Answer and Affirmative Defenses to Amended Complaint (May 23, 2013)

Amended Complaint (May 8, 2013)

Complaint (PDF)

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit: 


October 13, 2011

Court Filed:


Eleventh Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County



none available

 Current Court: Eleventh Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County


filed October 13, 2011
  Next Key Date:


Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Hialeah’s Valentine’s Day Crackdown on Street Vendors Shows No Love for Entrepreneurs (February 14, 2012)

none available

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Related Case: Atlanta Vending:  Miller v. City of Atlanta

Related Case: El Paso Vending: Casteneda v. City of El Paso

Report: Streets of Dreams:How Cities can Create Economic Opportunity by Knocking Down Protectionist Barriers to Street Vending

Email Address
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Institute for Justice
901 N. Glebe Road, Suite 900
Arlington, VA 22203
Tel 703.682.9320, Fax 703.682.9321
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