Mobile art dealer sues city for demanding all proceeds be donated to charity

The local law would violate the “fruits of their own labor” provision of the North Carolina Constitution

A mobile art gallery owner is suing a North Carolina town over a local ordinance that requires traveling vendors like her to donate 100% of their profits to charity in exchange for the right to sell during peak tourist season.

Ami Hill owns the #Bus252 mobile art gallery and Muse Markets, which feature works by local artists and artisans.

Hill is suing the town of Kill Devil Hills in the holiday mecca of the Outer Banks over the ordinance which is in effect from May 1 to September 30 each year.

When the pandemic disrupted commerce in 2020, Hill moved her brick-and-mortar art gallery into the refurbished school vehicle that became her mobile art bus.

Although she has been welcomed into many other communities in the state, the ordinance prevents her from exercising her constitutional rights and making a living in her hometown of Kill Devil Hills.

The city “requires Ami to cede the entire fruits of her labor when she exploits the art market, and this allows her to retain the profits of her art bus only during the less lucrative periods of the year. ‘year,’ according to the legal complaint. .

Hill brought “this lawsuit to vindicate the Constitution’s promise that she be allowed to earn an honest living without arbitrary and unnecessary government interference.”

The legal complaint (pdf) in Hill v. Town of Kill Devil Hills, was filed June 7 in the General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division of Dare County, North Carolina.

According to the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a national public interest law representing the complainant, vendors can apply for a business license from the local Board of Commissioners, but this requires it to “submit to an arbitrary process and unduly heavy every time”. sale.

“This places traveling salespeople between the proverbial hammer and anvil,” adds PLF.

To make matters worse, the city has created a First Flight Market, which features street vendors and local artists in direct competition with Hill’s Muse Market.

The only distinction between the two markets is that city-sponsored vendors can sell year-round and keep their profits.

The city also rejected #Bus252’s bid to participate in the First Flight Market, whose name reflects its proximity to historic Kitty Hawk, site of the first successful and sustained powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine in 1903.

PLF attorney Donna Matias told The Epoch Times that the city “cannot condition an itinerant vendor’s right to earn a living on the assignment of profits or the request for permission from the board of commissioners every time he wants to sell”.

“Ami and business owners like her are entitled to the fruits of their labor under the North Carolina Constitution,” she said.

Matias said his clients decided to sue in state court because North Carolina “is the only state that has this fruits of one’s own labor provision, which expressly protects the right to earn an honest living.” .

Ultimately, that comes down to saying that Kill Devil Hills wants to “protect brick-and-mortar businesses,” the attorney said.

Matias speculated on how the dispute might be resolved.

“What she wants is to be able to earn a living and in her city, without this certain pattern that makes her impossible.

“There are other towns – she can work in Kitty Hawk – she’s allowed to move into surrounding towns, and each has a different set of rules.”

But the Kill Devil Hills ordinance “is definitely the most restrictive,” she said.

The city could repeal the ordinance altogether or structure it so that it addresses “anything that concerns them, although protecting physical stores is not a legitimate government concern.”

“But if they’re concerned about traffic and safety and crowds, fine, then you write a law that addresses that concern, rather than targeting a particular class of people,” Matias said.

The Epoch Times has sought comment from Casey Varnell, the city attorney.

Varnell said via email on June 7 that the city had not yet been notified of the legal complaint and that he would comment after reviewing it.

At the time of going to press on June 8, no comments had yet been received.


Matthew Vadum is an award-winning investigative journalist and recognized expert on left-wing activism.

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