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CHICAGO (CBS) – Food truck owners have filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the city’s restrictions on where they are allowed to operate in Chicago.
CBS 2’s Chris Martinez reports food truck owners argue the city’s rules prevent them from being able to earn an honest living, and unfairly protect brick-and-mortar restaurants from competition.
Greg Burke put more than just his heart and soul into his small, but stately food truck; he also put every last penny he had into it.
“It is everything. It was all my life savings. That was what I had left, and I decided to go for it,” he said.
But Burke said his Schnitzel King food truck business is going nowhere fast, thanks to the new city rules governing food trucks that cook their fare on-board.
The food truck ordinance passed this summer allowed food trucks to serve food that had been prepared on-board for the first time ever in Chicago – as opposed to at commercial kitchens – but it also set severe restrictions on where they can park and sell their fare.
Food trucks are not allowed to park within 200 feet of any brick-and-mortar restaurants. The city’s definition of restaurants covers any fixed location that prepares and serves food to the public, meaning many coffee shops and convenience stores would also count as restaurants.
The city also has established 21 food truck stands in high-density neighborhoods, where it would otherwise be difficult to find legal parking for food trucks more than 200 feet from a restaurant. But only two trucks may park at each stand at any given time.
Cupcakes for Courage owner Laura Pekarik said the city’s food truck rules prevent her from finding a spot to sell.
On Wednesday, she and Burke filed a lawsuit against the city, seeking to overturn the restrictions on where food trucks can operate.
Their attorney, Robert Frommer, said the rules shield what he calls “politically-connected restaurants” from competition.
“Whether your business succeeds and fails should turn on how good your product is, not who you know at City Hall,” Frommer said.
City officials did not have a comment on the lawsuit as of Wednesday afternoon.
However, a city spokesperson said officials stand by the food truck rules, saying the City Council “passed a commonsense ordinance that will allow this new industry to flourish.”
Food truck operators disagree. They’ve said simply finding a place to park has been costing them big-time.
“We park here overnight, and we actually have to pay a lot of money, because they charge the meter overnight here,” said Mike Musikanto, with 5411 Empanadas
Truck owners were also challenging another city rule, requiring all food trucks to have a GPS tracking device, so the city can keep tabs on where they are at all times.
The lawsuit calls that an invasion of privacy.
Frommer said there are only 50 gourmet food trucks in Chicago. He said there should be more, but many potential owners shy away from the city’s strict regulations on food trucks.