A Naperville advisory group is recommending the city continue to allow food carts in the downtown, but limit them to two.

"I don't want to see government squash enterprise … as long as it's reasonable," Downtown Advisory Commission Chairman Steve Rubin said.

The commission and city staff have been looking at ways to ease issues like vendors being unhappy with the location they have been assigned, and some vendors not showing up consistently. There also have been concerns from the business community that mobile vendors take business away from bricks-and-mortar establishments.

After discussing possible changes to the program at multiple meetings last spring, city officials decided the current two vendors – Joey's Red Hots and John's Rib House -- could continue through the end of the year while the staff took more time to evaluate the program.

The city then conducted a survey and found just over half of respondents had purchased food from the vendors at least once. Roughly 77 percent of those surveyed said the existence of the carts did not lead them to make more visits downtown, but 84 percent said it added to the ambiance.

Allison Laff, operations manager for the city's planning team, said Thursday the two current vendors have been showing up consistently, and the city has only received one complaint since June that has since been resolved.

"We finally got this thing working well," Councilman Joe McElroy said. "I think we should leave well enough alone."

Councilwoman Judy Brodhead agreed and said the city should keep the number to two instead of the four it previously allowed.

"It seems to be not particularly fair to give somebody a location we now know may not work," she said.

Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance who also is leading the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce on an interim basis, said the two business groups have been concerned about the carts.

"I think fundamentally it's not a driver to bring people down here, and I do believe that if expanded greatly beyond the two … I do think it has the propensity to hurt our brick-and-mortar restaurants," she said.

The group ultimately voted 7-1 in favor of recommending the food carts continue, but be limited to two. Under its recommendation, the vendor locations would remain the Riverwalk and the parking garage on Chicago Avenue and the vendors would continue to serve food during lunchtime and late-night hours only.

The city would go through an open application process to fill those two spots. Afterward, John's Rib House owner John Singleton Jr. said he hopes to get one of them, and he was pleased with the group's recommendation.

"When I'm down there … people are satisfied with the product, they like that I'm out there," he said.

The recommendation now goes to the City Council for approval.

mjenco@tribune.com

Twitter@melissajenco