CHICAGO, IL – Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), owner of Ann Sather’s Restaurants, demanded Wednesday that brick-and-mortar restaurants like his own be protected before Chicago legalizes mobile food trucks with cooking on the premises.

Tunney acknowledged that Mayor Rahm Emanuel campaigned on a promise to lift the ban and “wants to get the ball rolling” on legalizing mobile food trucks one year after Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) proposed the idea.

But, as the new chairman of the City Council’s Economic Development Committee that will consider the ordinance, Tunney said he is determined to forge a compromise that “protects brick-and-mortar restaurants” concerned about an unlevel playing field.

The ordinance that Waguespack re-introduced at last week’s City Council meeting would allow mobile food trucks to be located 200 feet away from a restaurant and 100 feet from any retail store that sells food.

Tunney refused to say how large the buffer should be.

He would only say, “One of the major issues is spacing from brick-and-mortar restaurants. We’ve got work to do. We need to hear from all sides. We need to make sure we protect … restaurants and foster a trend that, I think, is gonna be here for a while.”

Glenn Keefer, managing partner of Keefer’s Restaurant, argued that mobile food trucks with cooking on the premises should be required to “stay out of the Central Business District” altogether.

“It’s so densely populated with restaurants that have spent a fortune and are carrying the ball on paying for police, Streets and Sanitation, the Fire Department and McCormick Place,” Keefer said, referring to property taxes and the downtown restaurant tax.

“These guys are gonna come into our neighborhood for a $600 license? It’s completely unfair. Why would anybody want to take a chance and mortgage their house [to open a restaurant] when these guys are gonna be in the neighborhood selling out of the back of a truck for literally no investment?”