Should the city of Chicago be in the business of protecting a few politically connected restaurateurs from competition?
That is the question to be answered by a major lawsuit filed Wednesday, November 14, 2012, in Cook County Circuit Court by the Institute for Justice (IJ)—a national public interest law firm—and three Chicago-area food truck entrepreneurs.
Cities nationwide are experiencing the benefits of food trucks. But for years Chicago had not embraced that movement. For example, Chicago did not allow cooking on food trucks and it told food truck entrepreneurs that they must stay more than 200 feet from brick-and-mortar restaurants. So in June 2012, when the city announced it would be revising its vending laws, food fans were excited.
The law that passed in July, however, continues to make it illegal for food trucks to operate within 200 feet of any fixed business that serves food. The fines for violating the 200-foot rule are up to $2,000—ten times higher than for parking in front of a fire hydrant. Further, the city is forcing food trucks to install GPS tracking devices that broadcast the trucks’ every move. According to the Chicago Tribune, “the ordinance doesn’t serve the needs of the lunch-seeking public. It benefits the brick-and-mortar eateries, whose owners don’t want the competition.”