CHICAGO (CBS) — A baker who sued the city over its rules governing food trucks said she plans to appeal a judge’s decision upholding restrictions on where the mobile businesses can operate, and requiring them to be equipped with city-monitored GPS devices.
Laura Pekarik said she is still licensed in Chicago, but doesn’t bring her Cupcakes For Courage truck to the city as much as she used to before aldermen required food trucks to stay at least 200 feet away from brick-and-mortar restaurants when the City Council allowed food trucks to begin cooking food on board in 2012.
“Trucks turn over left and right, because it looks like a great opportunity, but when you get out there and this 200-foot rule is in place, you realize this is not easy,” she said.
The Institute for Justice, which represented two food truck owners who sued the city over those rules, has said the 200-foot requirement has “hamstrung” the operators, and made it “nearly impossible” for the trucks to operate in the Loop.
On Monday, a Cook County judge ruled 200-foot rule has a rational basis for easing sidewalk congestion, and said expecting privacy while operating a business that sells to the public is “absurd.” Judge Anna Helen Demacopoulos said the ordinance balances the need of brick-and-mortar restaurants and food trucks, which she called the “young pop star” of Chicago’s culinary world.
The plaintiffs also sought to overturn city’s requirement that food trucks be equipped with GPS to prove they aren’t violating location restrictions, but the judge said it “borders on the absurd” to argue the GPS mandate amounted to an invasion of privacy, when the food truck industry relies on the public knowing where and when the trucks operate.
Pekarik and her attorneys argued the city’s ordinance gives preferential treatment to traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants. The lawsuit argued the city cannot protect traditional restaurants from competition.
Institute for Justice attorney Robert Frommer said it should be up to consumers – not City Hall – to decide where they go for lunch.
“The food truck industry will survive. It will thrive, just not here in Chicago. Cities, large cities across the nation, the top ten cities in the nation by population, Chicago is the only one that has a rule like this,” he said.
Pekarik said she’s disappointed by the judge’s ruling, but she plans to appeal.
The city’s Law Department praised the judge’s ruling.
“We are pleased with the ruling, which reaffirms that the ordinance strikes the right balance between the interests of food trucks and those of restaurants,” Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said in an email.
Former food truck owner Greg Burke, who operated the Schnitzel King food truck, also was a plaintiff in the lawsuit until he went out of business and moved out of state.