CHICAGO, IL - Yesterday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent a proposed food truck ordinance to committee that would finally allow Chicago food trucks to cook on board these mobile bistros. The ordinance will likely be reviewed by the City Council’s committee on licensing and economic development before going to a full council vote in July.
While on the surface, the ordinance may sound like a huge win for food truck owners and their many fans, but if you spend any time digging through its 18 pages (find the link below) you will find it may cause bigger problems for these mobile entrepreneurs if adopted.
Allows for cooking and food preparation on board trucks: Welcome to the mobile food industry Chicago. This portion of the ordinance is very important due to the fact that up to the point that this ordinance is passed, Chicago is the only city in the most populous cities in the country that does not allow cooking on board the trucks.
Allows trucks to operate 24/7: This part of the ordinance will open up many different avenues for food trucks to operate. Currently food trucks are legally able to operate from the hours of 10am to 10pm.
200 ft parking restrictions from restaurants: This maintains the status quo of preventing food trucks from parking anywhere near a restaurant in Chicago and as we all know, it’s pretty damned tough to find a parking location that meets this parameter. The only positive thing we found in this provision is that it does not apply from 12am to 5am. This would allow trucks to park near restaurants during these times which could help them during the weekend. One thing we do wonder is if the term “restaurant” will now keep the 7-11 or CVS from being included as they have been.
Keeps food trucks out of Chicago Medical District: We understand the need to keep this area free of congestions for safety reasons, however, there are thousands of citizens and workers in this area that have had the ability to eat from a truck without having to leave the area.
Provide food truck “parks”: While it may seem like a great idea for areas that area highly congested with restaurants, the problem is that these areas will only allow for 2 trucks at a time. The ordinance would initially provide for no more than 6 of these food truck spots. Great! Now there will be parking for 12 trucks every two hours (except that there are nearly 60 trucks at this moment).
Keeps food trucks out of most of the Loop from 6am – 6pm: There is absolutely no reason for this stipulation, unless of course they are trying to claim that food trucks would create a dangerous traffic problem. Should this be the case, I certainly hope we can expect an ordinance that will ban cabs and delivery vehicles from traveling within the loop during those times since we all would hate to see any traffic (which food trucks don’t create by the way) in a Loop.
Restricts trucks to operating for a maximum 2 hrs in one location: This is one of those laws we see throughout the country that keeps us scratching our heads. Where did they come up with a two hour limit? A food truck that prepares food on board needs time for setup and take down which apparently will be part of this two hours. What this will do is allow trucks to actually sell their freshly produced food for 1.5 hours or less depending on how quickly they can set up and bring their equipment up to temperature.
Fees increased: (Currently $250 per year up will be increased to $750 for a two year permit) While it isn’t a huge increase, it is still an increase, even for those trucks that remain as non-food prep trucks such as many of our existing dessert trucks, this is just one more way their bottom line is cut.
GPS requirement on trucks: This is the new measure that worries us the most. When we first heard about the GPS requirement, we thought the primary reason was to give the health department the ability to track trucks down to conduct inspections while they are on the road. This would justifiable, but according to the ordinance, it will allow city officials to keep track of trucks to make sure they are not located in non-legal parking areas. The major issue with this is that many of the current GPS trackers on the market are not accurate enough to give the city the ability to ticket a truck owner. This could lead to many unjustified tickets because there is no way someone at city hall could actually tell if the truck is inside the 200 foot distance from the primary customer entrance of a restaurants storefront by using GPS.
So there it is the good and the bad of the Chicago Food Truck ordinance. What do you think? If you would like to see the ordinance in its entirety, feel free to check it out <here>