SPRINGFIELD, IL – The tension between food truck operators and brick-and-mortar restaurant owners in the capital city was on display at Wednesday’s Springfield City Council meeting, where aldermen unanimously approved a set of regulations for the mobile food vendors.
Under the rules passed Wednesday, food truck operators won’t be able to set up within 300 feet of an existing restaurant’s property line, except for within a designated downtown zone, where the distance is only 50 feet.
The 300-foot figure was drawn down from the initial proposal of 1,000 feet, and then 500 feet, which is what aldermen discussed at last week’s committee of the whole meeting. Ward 6 Ald. Cory Jobe called the finalized plan a “reasonable compromise.”
Aldermen voted 10-0 in favor of the ordinance, which also imposes a $250 annual fee on food truck operators, after hearing from a few food truck operators and restaurant owners.
Brad Wilson, an attorney for Margaret and Jerome Taylor, who operate MJ’s Fish & Chicken Express on the Precision Barbers/Detailing Paint & Body Repair property at 230 South Grand Ave. E., told aldermen the regulations could have a “negative or fatal” effect on his clients’ business. Much of their business comes from state workers in the buildings near the intersection of South Grand Avenue and Second Street, and the regulations could push the Taylors out of the major commercial locations in town, he said.
The Taylors pay rent to the property owner where they set up, but their food truck is close to the nearby China One restaurant. It was the subject of a complaint at last week’s committee of the whole meeting by one of that establishment’s owners, Debra Lin, who said she’s lost business due to the proximity of the food truck and that food truck patrons use her bathroom.
The downtown district where a 50-foot setback is in place is the area within Second and 11th streets and Carpenter Street and Lawrence Avenue. There are exemptions for special events, downtown festivals and the Old Capitol Farmers Market.
The ordinance was largely driven by complaints from brick-and-mortar restaurants, Jobe said, adding that he doesn’t oppose food trucks but thinks they need rules.
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