Chris Morales Should Make His Bethlehem Council Race About the Anti-Competitive Food Vendor Law

Chris Morales, the only guy to successfully establish a mobile food vendor business in Bethlehem, is going to be running for Bethlehem City Council, and I think his entry into the race provides a great opening to inject the issue of overhauling Bethlehem’s anti-competitive food vendor ordinance into the discussion.

I’ve written about this here, here and here, but basically the issue is that a few years ago Bethlehem’s politicians hastily wrote some regulations with the goal of making it inordinately difficult to run a mobile food business in response to some Southside businesses whining about competition.

The ordinance succeeded at its aims apparently, because Bethlehem only has one mobile food business.

People who don’t want any competition from nimble low-overhead food businesses have good reason to cheer this outcome, but people who like eating good affordable food need to rise up against this bullshit. Mediocre businesses are the only beneficiaries of the current rules. For everyone else it means fewer choices and higher prices.

City Council needs to adopt this model vendor ordinance that would make it very easy to open mobile food businesses, promote competition between restaurants mobile and immobile, and improve the city’s food scene and its customers.

They might even consider creating a revolving loan fund for people who want to start new mobile food businesses.


  1. This is nice aspirational politics, and while I oppose your hatred of licensing in general, this guy seems to be an above board business, so I hope he brings this up too. With that said, he’s got an uphill climb ahead of him. Evans, Dolan, and Callahan are tough names to beat in Bethlehem.

  2. This is another case where Jon wants to take the value created by the hard work, sweat and cash of others and give it to someone else.

    Common theme of his.

    Here’s a thought – work for it. Earn it. Stop whining that everything should be given away or paid for by someone else.

  3. Jon Geeting says:

    What I hate is barriers to entry. There’s nothing liberal about that. It’s corporatism at its worst. Businesses try to form licensing cartels so they can offer high prices and let their quality go crap. It’s not the talented hard-working business owners who are the big winners in cartel systems, it’s the mediocre ones. Why should city policy reward mediocrity?

    John, the people who are the recipients of a government giveaway in this situation are the businesses the city is mollycoddling with anti-competitive protections. I’m all about rewarding hard work and sweat, and that’s why I think Bethlehem’s vendor regulations should promote a competitive restaurant market where the highest quality businesses thrive, and crappy businesses get competed out of business.

    • No, what you hate is hard work and paying for anything. You’d much rather sit on your ass and have someone else pay.

      The only reason there’s a barrier to entry here is because Bethlehem is a desirable place to be – why? Because people worked their asses off and invested their own money to make it so. The government didn’t do that, private investors/business owners/individuals did. Further there’s no government giveaway, it’s people playing by rules you want to change to give away the benefits of someone else’s work.

      I will also repeat – Bethlehem is a great city. Why do you want to change it so badly? Why do you want to risk all this by redoing the city from top to bottom?

      • Jon Geeting says:

        “The only reason there’s a barrier to entry here is because Bethlehem is a desirable place to be”

        I have no idea what that sentence is supposed to mean. The barriers to entry are the laws recently enacted by Bethlehem’s politicians. Street vendors recently used to be allowed to set up where they wanted on the sidewalk. Now they are not. That’s a giveaway to incumbent businesses. The hot dog man was playing by the rules, until City Council changed the rules on him. Now you’re not allowed to move to where the customers are, despite the wheels on your store. You need to get permission from another business to set up on the sidewalk. And you’re not allowed to sell dinner during dinner hours. That is a giveaway to incumbent businesses plain and simple. Your tribal loyalties might prevent you from seeing it that way, but its a straightforward handout.

  4. Jon Geeting says:

    I’d like to see Morales and Callahan take the two open seats, and Melnick get the appointment after we know who wins the Mayoral primary.

    • The kiss of death. If I were Morales I’d be royally angry with you for picking him. Your record is like 5% accuracy, as if you were a curse.

      Maybe it’s because there’s only a very small fraction of people here that agree with you?

      • Jon Geeting says:

        Translation: “I often disagree with you.” Don’t project your views as the broader public’s. It’s a terrible habit. In reality, Bethlehem politicians engage with me all the time via email and agree with me on plenty of issues.

  5. Morales is going to be endorsed by Dent at his formal announcement next Saturday.

  6. In my opinion, age of 25 is too young for city council. Simply cannot have enough life experience at this point. Even if he is the hot dog guy – politics and food cart business are very different. Very few at that age are mature enough to handle such a position. Sounds like some kid trying to boost is personal/business agenda. Or a stunt to drive popularity to his weenies.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I disagree. There’s nothing especially complex about any of these issues. They’re “complicated” in the sense that weighing the merits of competing claims is politically difficult. But I see nothing wrong with a 25-yr-old representing the interests of young people. The interests of older people are currently over represented on Council and it would be good to balance that out with younger voices. Especially on an issue like food vendors where the prevailing political sentiment is much too favorable to incumbent businesses and hostile to new businesses.

Speak Your Mind