Summary of Chicago City Council Food Truck Meeting

by Alex Levine, June 25, 2012

Tonight Chicago’s City Council held a meeting in regards to food truck ordinances.

Overall, it sounds like it was a very productive meeting. I know I know, that’s what people generally say if they have nothing else good to say about a meeting. However, the fact that it was a productive meeting is really good news (the best we’ve had in a long while). We hear that it was a very heated discussion.

Here are some key takeaways that were livetweeted (prodominantly by @twoitalians):

  • Trucks will be able to cook on board, from the sounds of it though this will come with a large pricetag
  • There will be designated food truck parking spaces around key neighborhoods (Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Near North, Near West, Side Loop) presumably in spots that were illegal under the 200 foot distance from brick-and-mortars law. No word yet on where these stops would be located or how they’d be regulated. Note: This is a model Boston is currently implementing. They rotate food trucks on a schedule based on those who opt in for the highly coveted spots (e.g. in front of the Boston Public Library)
  • The 10am-10pm time restrictions will be removed; 24 hours!!!
  • Trucks will have to have GPS units (presumably city-issued ones) so that they can be tracked by the city at all times. (We hate this one. It’s lazy, big brother-y and invasive. At first glance this looks to be unconstitutional in terms of privacy, but we could be wrong here)
  • MFD (mobile food dispensary) and MFT (mobile food truck?) licenses are different: MFDs are for our cupcake trucks, which have no need to cook on board. MFTs are for the trucks that will want to cook on board.  Looks like the only difference is MFD’s can’t cook on the vehicle, so we are assuming there are lesser price tags associated with these licenses.
  • Max 200 MFTs will be issued. To put that in perspective, we have roughly 60 trucks on the road right now.
  • They’d have to comply/have something called a “Chicago Food Sanitation Manager Certificate”
Is this exactly what we wanted? No. Is it major headway? Hell yes. These changes will be introduced and voted on this coming Wednesday.
Stay tuned for more information! We’ll post updates below as they roll in.
UPDATE (6/25/12 6:10pm CST): We just realized something important: this legislation is still in violation of the constitutional rights of food truck owners as it does not remove the 200ft distance ban, and thus still shows favoritism to brick-and-mortars. This, in the words of the U.S. constitution, is considered “arbitrary government interference.” So, they’re giving trucks the ability to cook on board and a few other things; this distracts from the point that this doesn’t fix the most egregious violation of the law on the CITY’S part.

UPDATE (6/25/12 6:16pm CST): This article says that the 200ft restrictions don’t apply between midnight and 5pm. Nice try, Chicago. We see what you did there.


UPDATE (6/25/12 7:06 PM CST): Reports are calling this a “compromise.” The problem is, the thing that is being compromised while the city plays referee between restaurants and food truck owners are the constitutional rights of the food truck owners. Again, this ordinance is smoke and mirrors. The 4th amendment protects citizens against “arbitrary government interference. In today’s proposed ordinance, the city seems to be trying to help food trucks while buckling under pressure from restaurants (and potentially private interests associated with them). Are there some improvements here? Yes. Should the city be proposing legislations that are nearly impossible to enforce without infringing upon other constitutional rights to privacy (that GPS biznaz gives us the heeby jeebies)? No. Does this address the main issue, in which the city themselves is in breach of the constitution? No.



UPDATE (6/25/12 7:09 PM CST): When asked if Mayor Emanuel has seen this ordinance, no straight answer was given (according to @KristinRCasper, co-owner of Chicago Schnitzel King)



UPDATE (6/25/12 7:12 PM CST): @TwoItalians said “The question raised was how to enforce the ordinance. If your restaurant calls on me I have to produce GPS logs to the city”  Ok. That’s not AS bad as the electric-dog-fence-esque map we were envisioning. That said, we still need a lawyer to weigh in on the constitutionality of this. It seems highly invasive and unjust in respect to how restaurant legislations are enforced. This ish don’t fly in NYC, LA, Miami etc. Why not? Because they don’t have 200ft bans. Because it’s unconstitutional and flat out ridonkulous. As  said by @SVPofThings, “Maybe the city shouldn’t make laws they can’t enforce.” Well said. These problems wouldn’t exist if they adhered to the constitution. C’mon city, stop embarrassing us.



UPDATE (6/26/12 9:35 PM CST): It turns out we were right on the GPS front, according to @twoitalians. It will in fact be a 24/7 system that can be monitored around the clock by the city. If a restaurant owner has beef with just the concept of food trucks, they can potentially call in to report a truck if the truck is even parked to make a catering order. The GPS will support the truck owners claim, and the food truck owners have no recourse to prove otherwise (aside from getting timestamped documentation from their catering recipient…awkwardville). Also, licenses for MFTs look like they’re in the $1000 range. Yes, it’s four times current licensing fees, but not redonkulous if you ask us.

To give some perspective to the proposed fines for food trucks serving illegally (>200ft from a food retailer, which includes convenience stores), a licensed gourmet food truck in Chicago serving cupcakes 199 feet from White Hen is fined significantly more than you if you are caught with weed. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Also, today the mayor’s office posted their press release regarding this ordinance. The community’s response? Awesome. Looks like city hall isn’t fooling anyone but themselves (see screenshot).

As we always say, the city trampling food truck owners rights is bad enough. The side effect of that is that they are also infringing upon our rights as consumers to choose where we eat and with which vendors we spend our money. Next time you go out to lunch, especially if you’re downtown in high rises, your choice is actually dictated in a sense by the city. They removed food trucks from your vicinity in order to give you no choice but to bring food from home or buy from brick and mortar restaurants. Sucks, don’t it?


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