Chicago Food Truck Entrepreneurs File Lawsuit Against City, Join National Street Vending Initiative
New Reports Advise Cities Nationwide How To Build Better Food Truck Laws
Should the city of Chicago be in the business of protecting restaurants from food trucks?
That is the question to be answered by a major lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court by the Institute for Justice (IJ)—a national public interest law firm—and three Chicago-area food truck entrepreneurs: Greg Burke and Kristin Casper of Schnitzel King, and Laura Pekarik of Cupcakes for Courage.
In conjunction with the lawsuit, the Institute is releasing two national reports. Food Truck Freedom: How to Build Better Food Truck Laws in Your City provides recommendations to city officials on how to foster conditions that will let food trucks thrive, based on the best practices of Los Angeles and other cities that have experience regulating food trucks. Seven Myths and Realities About Food Trucks responds to the most common arguments made by those who want cities to “protect” restaurants from competition from food trucks. Using facts and real-world examples, IJ debunks each of these arguments.
“City officials shouldn’t be in the business of protecting restaurants from food trucks,” said IJ Attorney Robert Frommer, lead counsel in today’s lawsuit. “Thankfully, the Illinois Constitution protects the right to earn an honest living, and it acts as a check against cities trying to stack the deck in favor of industry insiders.”
Cities nationwide are experiencing the benefits of food trucks. The Economist magazine predicted that “some of the best food Americans eat may come from a food truck.” But for years Chicago had not embraced that movement. For example, Chicago did not allow cooking on food trucks and it told mobile vendors that they must stay more than 200 feet from brick-and-mortar restaurants. So in June when the city announced it would be revising its vending laws, food fans were excited.
The law that passed in July, however, was less than advertised. Although the law now allows mobile vendors to cook on board their vehicles, it is still illegal to operate within 200 feet of any fixed business that serves food, including supermarkets, convenience stores and even gas stations. The fines for violating the 200-foot rule are up to $2,000—ten times higher than for parking in front of a fire hydrant. And to enforce the 200-foot rule, the city is making food trucks install GPS tracking devices that broadcast their every move.
“Putting a GPS tracking device on my food truck makes me feel like a criminal with an ankle bracelet,” said IJ client Kristin Casper. “I think it’s wrong and I don’t want it on my vehicle.”
Chicago passed these protectionist provisions at the request of a few politically connected restaurateurs who do not want the competition, including Alderman Tom Tunney, who owns the Ann Sather restaurants and sponsored the measure. According to the Chicago Tribune editorial board, “the ordinance doesn’t serve the needs of the lunch-seeking public. It benefits the brick-and-mortar eateries, whose owners don’t want the competition.” But restaurants and food trucks peacefully co-exist elsewhere, with the best food-truck cities in the country also having thriving restaurant industries.
“Consumers should decide who wins or loses in the marketplace, not city officials,” said IJ Senior Attorney Bert Gall. “What made America great is freedom and competition, not hardball politics and backroom deals.”
For more on the lawsuit and reports, visit www.ij.org/vending. The Institute for Justice is the nation’s leading legal advocate for the rights of entrepreneurs. IJ is available on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Chicago rolls out My Streets, My Eats
My Streets, My Eats is a grassroots campaign to spread the word about the legal restrictions Chicago places on mobile chefs and to advocate for reform. Currently, Chicago’s laws say no to mobile chefs over and over again: no preparation of food on a truck or cart, no serving customers before 10 am, no stopping within 200 feet of a restaurant. My Streets! My Eats! aims to mobilize Chicagoans to urge City Council to say yes to mobile chefs by repealing these restrictions. Chicago should let entrepreneurs figure out what customers want and serve it up fresh and hot!
You can join the My Streets, My Eats campaign. City Council is sitting on a proposed law that would allow food preparation from mobile food vehicles: urge the Committee on License and Consumer Protection to hold a hearing on the law. But that proposal doesn’t go far enough. It would still place confusing and anti-competitive restrictions on mobile food businesses, requiring them to stay away from other food establishments. That translates into staying out of busy business districts, where customers are likely to be. Check out our map of the Loop, which shows how crippling the law would be.
To see more from My Streets, My Eats click here:www.ij.org/mystreetsmyeats
My Streets My Eats Mobile Food Symposium is a huge hit!
My Streets, My Eats: Chicago Mobile Food Symposium and Meet Up was a huge success! Thanks to the hundreds of Chicagoans who came to show their support for legalizing street food in Chicago. Almost all of the 18 food trucks sold out at the meet up, and were energized by the friendly, supportive environment where they could chat with fellow entrepreneurs and show off their delicious food.
See photos from the event here or click the photo to the right.
To read more on the event and to access podcast to all of the event panels,click here.
Thanks to the panelists and food trucks below who made this an event to remember!
Baylen Linnekin, Keep Food Legal
Gabriel Wiesen, Beaver’s Coffee & Donuts Truck
Gregg Kettles, Los Angeles Mayor’s Office
Heather Shouse, Timeout Chicago
Dr. John Gaber, University of Arkansas
Justin Large, Big Star
Samm Petrichos, Spice!
Sean Basinski, NY Street Vendor Project
Vicki Lugo, Asociación de Vendedores Ambulantes