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Mayor: Add mobile food trucks in high-density neighborhoods

Food trucks 600 block W. Chicago |  Al Podgorski~ Sun-Times

Food trucks on the 600 block of W. Chicago | Al Podgorski~ Sun-Times

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Updated: June 9, 2013 6:34AM

Chicago would add nine dedicated mobile food truck stands in high-density neighborhoods — even though only six trucks have been licensed to cook on board — under a mayoral plan to be introduced Wednesday.

With a lawsuit challenging Chicago’s food truck ordinance still pending in Circuit Court, Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to increase the number of food stands where licensed trucks can park for up to two hours at a time — from 21 to 30.

The new stands, each with space for two trucks, would be located at: 902 W. Adams in Mary Bartelme Park; 825 S. Canal; 1400 W. Adams outside Whitney Young High School; 1851 W. Jackson near Malcolm X College; 150 W. Van Buren outside the Chicago Board of Trade; 65 E. Harrison adjacent to Columbia College; 2500 N. Cannon Drive in Lincoln Park; 3628 N. Broadway and 3953 N. Sheridan.

Because of the city’s rigorous licensing and costly GPS requirements, only six licenses have been issued empowering mobile food trucks to cook on board. More than 100 operators have “expressed interest” in receiving city licenses.

“These dedicated stands for food trucks provide additional parking and expanded operations to foster this growing industry. They will also help to safeguard communities from added congestion and public safety issues,” Emanuel was quoted as saying in a press release.

Last year, Emanuel brokered an end to the two-year stalemate that had stunted Chicago’s growth as a culinary capital.

To appease brick-and-mortar restaurants concerned about the threat to their businesses, the ordinance required mobile food trucks to: set up shop at least 200 feet away from any licensed restaurant; be in a location where they could “legally park” and not remain in any one location for more than two hours at a time.

The ordinance also created designated “food stands” exempt from the 200-foot buffer — with space for two food trucks — in congested, parking-starved areas.

The compromise made neither side particularly happy.

Food truck owners complained about the 200-foot rule, the food stands in high-density areas and about GPS devices that could be used to impose $1,000 to $2,000 fines.

Some restaurant owners were equally upset. They were afraid that rolling restaurants that don’t pay property taxes would cut into their business.

The Circuit Court lawsuit claimed that the 200-foot buffer violates the due process guarantees outlined in the Illinois Constitution.

“It exists for one reason and one reason only: to protect a few, politically connected restaurants from competition,” Robert Frommer, an attorney at the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Justice, said on the day the lawsuit was filed.

“That’s not a legitimate purpose. Government exists to protect public health and safety. Government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers in the marketplace. That’s the job of consumers.”

The lawsuit further contended that the GPS requirement violates the search and seizure provision of the Illinois Constitution.

“Government has to have a legitimate reason to undertake that search. Simply protecting one class of business from competition by another is not legitimate,” Frommer said at the time.

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