OPINION EDITORIAL – Liberty is defined as “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.” Some will say that liberty is the ability to act as long as I am not infringing on another’s liberty. And capitalism allows for the free exchange of goods and services between citizens. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, except in Hurricane, Utah.
Here is what has recently transpired in Hurricane. A small business owner set up a trailer, after having complied with all Hurricane City requirements, on State Street to serve BBQ products. In this process, they set up around six picnic tables for their patrons to use. A short time later, the city notified them that they had now banned the use of tables at this location.
“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning, but without understanding.”
~Louis D. Brandeis
As many of you know, it is hard to eat BBQ without the protection of a table. Or is that just me?
Well, I felt this was not only an assault on this business, but also an attack on its patrons. Why did the city feel the need to punish us, the consumers? We are the ones who sit on the tables.
No one knew the answer, so I called the city directly. The conversation that followed not only made my blood boil, but it also left me speechless. To sum up our conversation, I was basically told that Sonny Boy’s BBQ Express had not paid enough in impact fees to the city to deserve having tables for its customers. Yep. You read that right.
“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”
Let me rephrase it for you. The City of Hurricane felt like the BBQ business shouldn’t be able to offer its customers tables, because it hadn’t given the city as much money as their competitors had. I know. My jaw is still sore from the reverberating bounce off the floor.
Is Sonny’s BBQ allowed to operate without burdensome restrictions? Obviously not. Offering tables to your customers seems like a common sense conclusion for someone in the food business, but this small business is not allowed to make that choice. Liberty has been denied.
But why? Was it because the tables were unsafe? Nope. Was it because the tables offered a community health hazard (I called the health department and asked)? Nope. Was it because the tables were made in China? Nope. Was there a city law or regulation against the use of tables at an eating establishment? Of course there isn’t. The reason was that Sonny Boy’s BBQ Express had not paid the city as much money as the other restaurants had.
When the mob does this, it is called protection money. In a nut shell it goes like this: The BBQ place had not paid enough “protection money” (also known as impact fees) as their competitors had, so the city was not going to allow them to offer tables to their customers.
The impact a business should not be measured by how much water, electricity, or sewer they use, but by the beneficial contribution they offer the community.
Here is the question that the people of Hurricane need to answer: Should a new business be required to pay the same amount of tax as their competitors in order to offer the same services, or should the OPPORTUNITY itself be fair, and let the businesses decide their own course of action?
No city should be allowed to decide what services a business can offer its clients based on the amount of tax paid to that city. If that were the case, how many home based businesses would have to close their business down? Ultimately, the community is best served by the variety and choice of places to do business including food vendors. One of the things that make America great is the ability for a small business to exist and thrive on its own merit. When a government agency gets to decide what that business can or can’t do based on the amount of tax paid, we become something other than a free market republic.
Sonny Boy’s BBQ Express should not be punished by the city because they came up with a more efficient and less costly business model than their competitors.
I know that this may seem like a small matter to many, but it not a small matter to the BBQ place or its customers. Remember that the slippery slope of tyranny always starts with the smallest of actions. Always remember that the citizens own the government, not the other way around.
This opinion piece was written with the information I had received at the time (about a week ago). Initially I was told the tables were prohibited by the health department. I called the health department, and they denied this. So when I called the city, I was told it was do to the impact fees as illustrated in my article. Apparently now the city is claiming it is a licensing issue.
Submitted by: Ryan Carter
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