City Council approves food truck ordinance
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, standing next to Corporation Counsel Steve Patton, led the City Council to pass an ordinance allowing food trucks to operate in the city. (Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune / July 25, 2012)
Aldermen voted 45-1 to approve the ordinance, with Ald. John Arena, 45th, the sole "no" vote.
Introduced last month by Mayor Rahm Emanueland seven co-sponsors, the ordinance would allow cooking aboard trucks, longer operational hours and special food truck stands in busy neighborhoods. Last-minute changes last week included banning operation between 2 and 5 a.m. rather than allowing 24-hour service and prohibiting operation in vacant lots even with the property owner's permission.
The main objection of food truck advocates is a requirement that the trucks stay 200 feet away from restaurants, except in certain locations. Beth Kregor, director of the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago, said last week that the rule gives special protection to restaurants at the expense of trucks.
Restaurant owners noted that they carry the tax burden and argued they deserve protection from businesses parked in front of their establishments that could potentially siphon off customers.
Arena thinks it goes too far in curbing the activities of the trucks in order to protect traditional restaurants. "The brick and mortar restaurant lobby got ahold of (the plan) and it was stuffed with protectionism and baked in the oven of paranoia," Arena said.
But Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, whose downtown ward includes hundreds of restaurants concerned the trucks will undermine their sales, said the ordinance strikes the right balance. "I think everyone impacted by this ordinance should look at this as a foundation upon which we will build additional frameworks," he said.
And Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the important thing is Chicago doesn't get left farther behind other cities in the push to allow food trucks. "We finally move forward as a city," he said after the vote. "Fifty other cities have figured out a way to go forward on food trucks and brick-and-mortar (restaurants). Now, Chicago is known as the Second City, I just wanted to make sure we weren't known as the fifty-second city."
In addition to the 200-foot buffer zone, truck owners object to required GPS tracking systems and $1,000 fines for parking violations.