Prospective food vendor sues Iowa City

Suit claims vendor was unfairly denied permit for Ped Mall

A 41-year-old engineer and prospective mobile food vendor has filed a lawsuit against Iowa City, arguing he was unfairly denied a mobile vending permit and asking a judge to force the city to change its application process.

Anthony Browne, of Iowa City, states in his lawsuit, filed Thursday in Johnson County District Court, that he called the city in October to inquire about the mobile vending application process and was told it was “impossible” to file an application as the city’s wasn’t taking them this year.

After some back and forth between Browne and the city, according to the lawsuit, an official reported the city would be accepting applications after all and it held the annual application process Jan. 31. Six vendor permits were issued to businesses that have been operating downtown for years, according to the lawsuit.

Browne’s application for a mobile vending business, Hillery’s BBQ, was denied along with one other, and city officials pointed to the winning business’ tenure downtown as a primary reason for the rejection, the lawsuit states.

“The most important factor in the review process is prior satisfactory experience with the City of Iowa City,” according to a city official quoted in the lawsuit.  “The six permits that were approved are operated by vendors that were permitted on City Plaza last vending season and are in good standing with the city.”

Browne appealed his rejection and argued the city exceeded its authority and violated due process with its consideration of seniority in the mobile vendor application process, according to the lawsuit. Brown, in the lawsuit, states the Iowa City Code does not provide for seniority, and he says the fact that the process doesn’t give credit for experience in other jurisdictions violates due process.

He is asking a judge to move quickly in declaring the 2012 application process illegal and ordering the city to proceed with a new 2012 application process that does not include the “seniority” requirement.

Browne also is asking for compensatory damages, and he “very conservatively estimates” in the lawsuit that his proposed mobile vending unit would have generated an average of $25,000 in net profits per month.

The business names of the six vendors who received permits this year are Aladdin, George’s Gyros, Marco’s Grilled Cheese, Pedro’s Taco, Pop’s Italian Beef and CorNroc, according to the lawsuit.

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