CHICAGO, IL – City Council committee moved Wednesday to grant licenses to food vendors using pushcarts, in the process clearing the way for sidewalk hot dog vendors like those found in New York City.

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), lead sponsor of the ordinance, said the new license category would “legitimize” the estimated 1,500 vendors walking the city streets with their food carts selling tamales, ice cream, corn and other products. He said the $350 license would produce about $2 million a year, and perhaps as much as $8 million with its acceptance and expansion.

“It would be applicable for hot dog carts as well,” Maldonado said before presenting his proposed ordinance to the License Committee.

Maldonado said the vendors, “most of whom are Hispanic,” would be granted a legal status comparable to the “fashionable food truck industry.”

Differences are that a food cart must not be motorized, and a food cart vendor cannot prepare food on-site — not even cutting fruits or vegetables or husking corn, all of which must be done in advance in a licensed kitchen. Those additions to the ordinance were the product of a “compromise” with the Health Department, he added.

Food carts previously had been limited to frozen desserts and whole fruits and vegetables.

The proposal passed without vocal opposition and heads to the full City Council for a vote next week.

Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), chairman of the License Committee, endorsed it. “I had my first corn the other day,” she said. “I see why the kids like it.”

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