Andrew Wimer
Andrew Wimer · May 30, 2018

Springfield, Ill.—The Illinois Supreme Court announced today that it would hear a food truck owner’s challenge to Chicago rules that make it difficult to operate in the city. The city currently bans trucks from operating within 200 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant and requires that food trucks install GPS tracking devices that broadcast their every move. The Institute for Justice and Cupcakes for Courage first challenged the law in 2012.

“Chicago’s restrictions on food trucks devastated entrepreneurs looking to climb into the food industry,” said Robert Frommer, an Institute for Justice senior attorney, who is the head of IJ’s National Street Vending Initiative. “Politically-connected businesses should not be able to use the government to shut out their competition and restrict consumers’ choices. The Illinois Supreme Court has an opportunity to strike down protectionism and stand up for the freedom of food truck owners to earn a living.”

The fines for violating Chicago’s 200-foot rule can total $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 each truck’s location every five minutes. Anyone who wishes can ask for and receive access to this sensitive data.

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

“The Windy City should be just like other places in our nation where food trucks and brick-and-mortar restaurants thrive side-by-side,” said Laura Pekarik, owner of Cupcakes for Courage, which has brick-and-mortar shops in Elmhurst and Oak Park. “I’ve kept up this fight for years because I love Chicago and I know that a vibrant food truck industry would make it an even better place to work and live.”

Through its National Street Vending Initiative, IJ protects vendors’ rights coast to coast. IJ’s vending lawsuits in San Antonio, El Paso, and Louisville successfully eliminated protectionist laws that banned food trucks from operating near their brick-and-mortar competitors. IJ has also filed a lawsuit to tear down unconstitutional barriers around food trucks in Baltimore.