Summary of the Public Food Truck Hearing at City Hall

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Note: We have audio recordings to substantiate all quotes in this article.

We have gotten many-a-request for a summary of the food truck hearing on 7/19/12. That was well over 2 weeks ago. Why haven’t we posted since then? It’s simple: it takes a certain amount of time for one’s blood to stop boiling and to allow oneself to calmly assess a situation. Given the extreme, unsubstantiated ridiculocities purported by the aldermen and the brick-and-mortar owners at that meeting, it took us a hot minute to calm down.

The behavior of the aldermen at this meeting (aside from Ald. John Arena) was nothing short of shocking. For example, we were perplexed by Ald. Reilly’s hot-headed behavior and extreme condescension when speaking with small business owners (note: that tone magically disappeared when his top campaign contributor$ took the stand: Gibson’s, Harry Caray’s, Lettuce Entertain You, etc.). Throughout the hearing Ald. Reilly displayed extremely (disproportionately) exaggerated dismay when a food truck owner said they had unsuccessfully tried to meet with him, as well as hostile behavior when presented with facts, e.g. someone testifying pointed out that verrrrry similar legislation had been deemed unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court among others; Reilly puffed out his chest and essentially said ‘Come at me bra’ to those who presented such facts (his literal words were more along the lines of “so what are you going to sue us?”) Alderman Waguespack tweeted at us during the hearing saying he was hungry and asking if there were any food trucks nearby, to which we had to respond “nope, they are here fighting for their livelihoods instead serving us food like we would all love.” C’mon aldermen.

All aldermen had several chuckles about the issue at hand, making light of the fact that small business owners present were desperately fighting for their livelihoods, but were met with small inside jokes and belly-laughs from aldermen who stared into space for the large majority of this hearing. To say the least, their behavior was quite offensive. And then there are their words….but that’s a whole different article (but you can bet your socks that’s coming).

As requested, here is a summary of the testimonies from the hearing:

In support of the ordinance (read: not in favor of food trucks constitutional rights)

  • Sam Toia, Illinois Restaurant Association (it should be noted that many restaurants who are a part of the Illinois Restaurant Association have publicly stated that they do not support the Association’s point of view on this orinance)
  • Gus Isaacson, Central Lakeview Merchants Association – Said that food trucks not being okay with the 200 foot buffer “astonishes” him. (It should be noted that a brick-and-mortar owned by Alderman Tom Tunney, who voted in favor of this ordinance, is part of this association)
  • Grant DePorta, Greater North Michigan Avenue Association & owner operator of Harry Caray’s “Food trucks need to share in responsibility for the city services they use. The success of food trucks will depend upon the responsible behavior of them following the rules and regulations…it would be nice if we could all park wherever we wanted…but the reality is we all have to give up some of our freedoms for the public good. I hope this ordinance will put a stop to some rogue food trucks.”
  • Jay Stieber, Lettuce Entertain You (Maggiano’s, Big Bowl, Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, foodlife, Hub 51, M Burger, Mity Nice, Nacional 27, Osteria Via Stato, Paris Club, Shaw’s Crab House, Tru, Wild Fire, Wow Bao, and more)  “We think that is essential to maintain…the 200ft rule that is being promulgated to protect the bricks and mortar restaurants.“ Note that Lettuce Entertain You operates a food truck currently (Wow Bao), though when I first saw their truck it was obvious to me that they did little more than the absolute bare minimum investment in this truck; I honestly felt insulted as a customer… in the same way as that unbathed underage dude walks up to a hot girl and delivers some crude pick-up line with the expectation that he’ll go home with her and a hoard of Playmates. I must not be the only one who is put off by the Wow Bao truck because I’ve never seen many customers lined up for food from them.
  • Glenn Keefer, Keefer’s Steakhouse (and Keefer’s Kaffe) - Lord help me if I even ask my brain to recall  to what he said; I just dont He did ask for harsher punishments with some “teeth in them” in order to be able to shut trucks down “permanently.”
  • John Coletti, managing partner of Gibson’s (Restaurant Group, including Gibson’s Steakhouse) and chairman of Illinois Restaurant Association. “This ordinance widely uses GPS. I am very glad for that…it will be important for the city to be able to identify and investigate [trucks locations].”
  • Mark Gordan, president and CEO of Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association. “The only provision we would like to make is a suggestion to add clarity in how the 200 foot restriction applies to hotels…with 1 or more internal restaurants.” Read: we would like this law to apply the 200ft rule to hotels (with restaurants) as well.

Against the ordinance (read: in favor of food trucks constitutional rights)

  • Alderman John Arena: He said too many good things to list. He sees all the holes in this constitution an later, when it came time to vote on 7/25/12, he told fellow legislators that the city will be sued and will lose [for the reasons echoed below by Jacob Huebert].
  • Jacob Hubert, Liberty Justice Center. He got a huge round of applause (the first of the day). We posted his testimony in its entirety. “Both federal courts and the Illinois Supreme Court have made clear that protecting private businesses from competition in this manner does not serve a legitimate governmental purpose, and the proposed ordinance’s 200-foot rule is therefore unconstitutional… the City Council does not have the power to negotiate away the people’s rights, and it does not have the power to compromise citizens’ rights to protect the profits of a wealthy, politically-connected special-interest group.”
  • Richard Myrick, Mobile Cuisine Magazine “Food trucks do not close down restaurants. Poor food and service close down restaurants.” Truer words have never been spoken.
  • A representative from Logan Square Kitchen, called the food truck regulations regarding health and safety “bizantine.” She said she got inspected 21 times (over the course of just a few years I think? I didn’t catch that number). Alderman Reilly said her testimony really “sat with him.”
  • Tiffany Kurtz, Flirty Cupcakes food truck “It’s a good first attempt, but let’s look at reality…innovation can’t happen with handcuffs on. You’re putting us in a situation where we won’t succeed…the numbers don’t add up.”
  • Amy Le, Duck n Roll food truck “We sit here and talk about two industries: restaurant and food trucks. We are one industry divided by legislation”
  • Matt Gellar, Southern California Food Truck Association – He said in his experience customers dine out three times as much if food trucks are available to them; “there is not a finite amount of business.” He said trucks improves constitutional competition, forcing everyone to ensure they’re offering great food and customer service, so “in the end the consumer wins.” He said Los Angeles had a 100-food ban in 1979 and it was deemed unconstitutional.
  • Manny Hernandez, Tamale Spaceship. He started his food truck out of necessity; he was laid off from a restaurant due to the downturn of the economy. Within a year, he went from being unemployed by a restaurant to employing 5 with his award-winning food truck.
  • Beth Kregor, Institute of Justice. Read her full testimony here.
  • John Keebler, founding member of the Illinois Restaurant Association. ”200ft rule designed to protect people from failure instead of setting the city up to succeed.”

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