Chicago is one of the country’s renowned culinary destinations. From the classic Due’s deep-dish pizza to the new wave celeb chef destinations, food is a major subject in the Windy City. That’s why Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking food truck legalization seriously.
Chi Town food trucks are held back my many restrictions. Namely, food cannot be prepared on board, which means it has to come from a brick and mortar business or a commissary. This severely limits what can be served from a truck, preventing anything beyond baked goods and food cooked in batches from making the menu. Emanuel and three aldermen recently announced an ordinance to allow trucks to prepare “food to order.”
This opens up many opportunities to diversify the already culture rich city and creates opportunities for brick and mortar businesses to expand into a new fronteir. “The food truck industry in Chicago has been held back by unnecessary restrictions, and my administration is committed to common-sense changes that will allow this industry to thrive, creating jobs and supporting a vibrant food culture across the city,” Emanuel stated.
This “common sense” though, may have some give and take. Food Truck Stands will be stationed in each ward of the city, denoting the locations where trucks can park. The trucks can operate 24 hours a day, every day, though they can only stay in one location for two hours at a time.
“Chicago’s got a renowned food culture and can no longer stay behind other major cities across the country when it comes to food trucks,” commented Emanuel’s office in relation to the ordinance. They can, however, stay behind other restaurants. The ordinance states that a $2,000 fine will be charged for trucks operating less than 200 feet from a restaurant. Restaurateurs like Glenn Keefer feel that this rule is much needed. “To park in front of a restaurant and siphon off customers who are coming in is not superior business acumen and grit. It’s piracy,” Keefer told the Chicago Tribune. That being said, it’s only fair for truck owners to feel like they deserve to compete.
Fines for parking a food truck outside of restaurants have always existed in Chicago, but on a much smaller scale. A $250 fee is undesirable, but would not discount an entire day of service. Perhaps Emanuel has exaggerated the fine to ensure the separation between establishments. Beth Kregor works for the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship, where she defends the rights of street vendors nationally. “It’s my opinion, and I think the opinion of the Illinois Supreme Court, that (buffer zones) are clearly in place to protect some businesses from other businesses,” Kregor told the Chicago Tribune. “They play no role in health and safety regulation and therefore are unconstitutional.”
Other rules include regular Department of Public Health inspections and GPS systems that track the legality of the trucks’ locations.
This change is a big breakthrough for Chicago, allowing the food truck culture to take off and flourish in a way it has not previously known. The details of the ordinance are bound to rile up those involved, and there are still issues that need to be addressed and maybe reassessed. Regardless, Rahm Emanuel’s ordinance will mean big change for this little city.
by Sienna Mintz