Food trucks are great conveniences to city dwellers across the country. They not only provide varied and inexpensive dining options for their patrons, but they also provide unique business opportunities for their entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs often want a chance to serve their community, provide excellent service, and operate a restaurant without the overhead costs of running a brick-and-mortar establishment.
Sadly, some U.S. cities are not as accepting of these mobile franchises, one such city being our very own Chicago. Especially in the downtown areas and specifically in the Loop, ordinances within the city limits make it very difficult for a food truck to operate, nevertheless, succeed. In the Loop itself, there is only about 3% of land availability legally usable by mobile food vendors.
In 2012, Chicago established its Mobile Food Vendor Ordinance. Originally thought to be a good step for food trucks being legally recognized and allowed, this ordinance seemed to set them back with many strict restrictions which would far outweigh the positives. This ordinance set into motion many different things, one of which was deciding where the vendors would be able to set up shop and for how long they would be able to operate in that location at any given time.
The Mobile Food Vendor Ordinance also established how many permits Chicago would issue to food trucks. Once these permits were all issued, no more would be available to new trucks entering the scene. Possibly the most controversial section of this ordinance is the requirement that the licensed food trucks must have a city-issued GPS installed.
Since this ordinance had passed in 2012, one food truck owner has decided to speak out against it. Laura Pekarik, who owns the food truck “Cupcakes for Courage,” has been legally fighting this ordinance for years on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. After going through lower-level courts, the Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to hear her case as of last year.
Pekarik expressed great qualms with the GPS rule, as it is an invasion of privacy and the rule that no food truck can park within 200 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant. She is hoping that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the mobile vendors and help make Chicago more friendly towards the food truck community.
Across the country, the food truck scene has continued to grow and become more popular, but sadly in Chicago, the small businesses efforts are quickly stifled. What’s more, food trucks appear to be coming to smaller venues too, including tiny suburban villages. I know there’s an inherent conflict with restaurants but let ’s hope lawmakers and the Illinois Supreme Court offer sensible guidance for all small businesses both within and outside the City of the Chicago to operate with fewer restrictions.