Until September 2015, it was illegal for pushcart vendors to sell any food other than whole produce or packaged frozen desserts in Chicago. The IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship teamed up with street vendors across the city to form the Street Vendors Justice Coalition, to fight for the vendors’ right to earn an honest living. After years of hard work and grassroots activism, Chicago’s City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to legalize pushcart vending.

The new law legalizes the thousands of popular tamale, fruit, bagel and hot dog food carts around the city. It also opens the door for aspiring food entrepreneurs looking to reinvent street food.

Before this law was passed, Chicago’s vendors pleaded with the city for decades to legalize their small businesses. Food carts provide a low-cost way to earn an honest living for local chefs who can’t afford the upfront costs of starting a brick-and-mortar restaurant. But sidewalk vendors in Chicago lived in fear of the police, who issued fines or threatened to arrest vendors if they did not stop selling to the public.

While the new law is an important first step to give entrepreneurs the freedom they need to start their own businesses, vendors are still banned from preparing food on their cart—a common practice done safely in almost every major city with a thriving vending industry. Only food prepared in a licensed kitchen is allowed to be sold by food carts. IJ is still fighting in court for food trucks that are still banned from operating within 200 feet of a restaurant and are forced to use GPS equipment that lets the city track their every move. The Clinic—and IJ’s litigation team—will continue to work hard for all Chicago vendors until the city removes all of its burdensome vending regulations!

Learn more here.