Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Chicago’s Food Truck Laws

Institute for Justice · December 18, 2017

Chicago—Today, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District dealt a major blow to Chicago’s food truck scene when it upheld two controversial provisions in the city’s food truck laws: its ban on operating a food truck within 200 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant and its requirement that food trucks install GPS tracking devices that broadcast their every move. The Institute for Justice (IJ) and Cupcakes for Courage first challenged the law in 2012 and plan to appeal this decision to the Illinois Supreme Court.

IJ Senior Attorney Robert Frommer said, “A business’s success should turn on how good its product is, not on whom it knows at City Hall. But Chicago’s 200-foot rule has decimated a fledgling industry all in order to protect a powerful interest group from competition. That sort of naked use of public power for private gain is unconstitutional. We will ask the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse today’s decision and strike down Chicago’s attempt to stack the deck in favor of the more politically connected.”

An analysis of data obtained through the lawsuit finds that the city’s protectionist “200-foot rule” makes it nearly impossible for food trucks to operate within Chicago’s North Loop business district—the prime location for food trucks serving lunch. According to the analysis, food trucks can legally park and operate on just 3 percent of the district’s curbs. And many of the few remaining parking spaces are nowhere near the Loop’s high-density population areas.

The fines for violating Chicago’s 200-foot rule are up to $2,000—over 10 times higher than for parking in front of a fire hydrant. And to enforce the rule, the city forces food trucks to install GPS tracking devices that transmit the truck’s location every five minutes. Anyone who wishes can ask for and receive access to this sensitive data.

The lawsuit argues that Chicago cannot protect restaurants from competition and that the GPS requirement constitutes an illegal search under the Illinois Constitution.