Reporting Lisa Fielding
CHICAGO (CBS) – An attorney for two local food truck owners said they plan to file a lawsuit against the city of Chicago, arguing a new food truck ordinance unfairly restricts where they may operate.
WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports the Institute for Justice, a self-described libertarian public interest law firm, argues the ordinance approved by the City Council in January is unconstitutional, because it protects brick-and-mortar restaurants from food truck competitors, by severely limiting where food trucks can park.
Institute for Justice attorney Robert Frommer said the city should not be in the business of protecting restaurants from food trucks.
“Food trucks are businesses, just like any other business; and it’s not the government’s job to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. That’s consumers’ job,” Frommer said.
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The ordinance, which for the first time allowed food trucks to sell food that had been cooked on board, as opposed to at commercial kitchens, also required food trucks to stay at least 200 feet away from brick-and-mortar restaurants.
However, Frommer said due to the way the ordinance is written, restaurants that food trucks must stay away from would include any business that sells prepared food, including convenience stores and coffee shops.
Food trucks would also be limited to designated “food stands,” with space for two trucks each. Only 21 such stands have been approved citywide.
“Those provisions violate the Illinois Constitution, and really the right of people to earn an honest living,” Frommer said.
Food trucks also are required to have GPS devices, to allow the city to monitor their movements.
“The idea that we’re going to stick a device on your vehicle, so that we can follow you everywhere you go, 24 hours a day, just to make sure that you don’t get too close to your brick-and-mortar competitors? That’s not a legitimate use of government power,” Frommer said.
He said there are only 50 gourmet food trucks in Chicago. Frommer said there should be more, but many potential owners shy away from the city’s strict regulations on food trucks.
Frommer said overturning Chicago’s food truck ordinance would be a game changer for the food truck industry across the country.