CHICAGO, IL – Despite a proposed ordinance allowing food preparation on Chicago food trucks that seemed likely to pass last May, the bill remains buried in two council committees, much to the detriment of the city’s food truck operators, Crain’s Chicago reports.
According to the bill’s sponsor, Alderman Scott Waguespack, the two aldermen who are holding up the bill have received more than $50,000 in campaign and ward funding since 2010 from trade groups representing restaurants and merchants.
While food trucks are thriving in many big cities, including New York and Los Angeles, four of Chicago’s five food truck pioneers have now shut down, citing the limited number of locations where they can operate, the cost of complying with the city’s existing ordinance, and the inability to offer freshly prepared food.
“The fact that food trucks are struggling now is not a sign that customers aren’t interested in patronizing them,” said attorney Beth Milnikel, director of a legal clinic for entrepreneurs at the University of Chicago. “It’s a sign that the laws are simply too restrictive.”
Many Chicago restaurateurs have opposed the food trucks, citing their low overhead costs which they maintain gives them an unfair advantage. Others have raised health concerns, wondering whether food can be prepared safely aboard a truck.
“The issue is where and how a food truck program is implemented,” said Sheila O’Grady, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association.
“If you have health standards, you have heath standards,” says David Vite, CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
Thomas Tunney is one of the alderman holding up the bill. A restaurateur himself, he rejects claims that there is a link between political contributions and the bill’s delay and cites instead the interests of his constituents.
“The brick-and-mortar restaurants are the lifeblood of my community,” he said. “I better make sure I pay attention to them.”
Matt Maroni owner of Gaztro-Wagon, said restrictive regulations forced him to shut down.
Others are holding out with the hope that the ordinance soon passes.
“I think there is a perception out there that because trucks have lower overhead costs, that we simply pick a spot, park and make money,” said Amy Le, owner of Duck N Roll, a truck selling Vietnamese sandwiches. “Between weather, parking, food waste — running a food truck is more difficult than most people think.”
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