Food Trucks Find New Laws Unconstitutional

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Institute for Justice appeared Wednesday in court on behalf of the Cupcakes for Courage food truck to ask that two provisions in Chicago’s food truck laws be found unconstitutional.

Food truck operators are told to “keep their distance” in Chicago, meaning they must stay at least 200 feet away from other restaurants. They also have other restrictions, including having to carry a GPS that can be monitored by anyone, WBBM’s Terry Keshner reports.

The Institute for Justice and Cupcakes for Courage challenged the law in 2012.

New analysis of data, finds the new location rule ‘nearly impossible for food trucks to operate within Chicago’s North Loop business district—the prime location for food trucks serving lunch.’ According to the data, food trucks are then limited to about 3 percent of the that area’s curbs.

At the Daley Center, a judge heard arguments on behalf of Laura Pekarik who has operated “Cupcakes for Courage” for five years, selling cupcakes out of a truck.

Robert Frommer is a lawyer for Laura Pekarik and the Institute for Justice.

“Chicago’s food truck community has been hamstrung by the 200-foot rule,” Frommer told reporters after the 90 minute hearing. “This case demonstrates one of the fundamental questions here in Illinois, whether the government can pick and choose winners in the marketplace.”

Frommer and Pekarik said the city ordinance gives preferential treatment to traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants, which to them is unfair and unlawful.

The lawsuit argues that Chicago cannot protect restaurants from competition and that the GPS requirement constitutes an illegal search under the Illinois Constitution.

Pekarik said the 200-foot rule and other restrictions, “don’t give us the freedom to operate in the market place.”

The fines for violating the 200-foot rule are up to $2,000, which is over ten-times higher than parking in front of a fire hydrant. The city plans to enforce that rule by adding another rule. Food trucks must install GPS tacking devices that transmit the truck’s location every five minutes. Anyone can access those locations.

Andrew Worseck, Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago, argued in court in favor of the city’s ordinance.

“While we cannot comment on the pending litigation,” Worseck said. “The city believes that the ordinance that is challenged in this case strikes the right balance between the interest of food trucks and brick-and-mortar restaurants.”

A judge’s ruling is expected in December.

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