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The Chicago Tribune editorial board blasted the new rules, writing that they appear “designed to contain the food truck trend, not to nurture it.”
Alderman John Arena, who cast the lone vote against adopting the regulations, referred to the rules as nothing more than a “[r]estraint of trade.”
And that they are.
“We see no health or safety justification behind the 200-foot rule, and the city has never offered one,” says Kregor. “The only explanation for the rule is the restaurants' demand for protectionism and the city government's deference to those demands.”
That’s no exaggeration. Even supporters of the new regulations freely admit they’re designed to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants.
“We want food trucks to make money, but we don’t want to hurt brick-and-mortar restaurants,” says Alderman Walter Burnett.
One bright spot? The brick-and-mortar restaurant community is hardly lined up in unison behind the discriminatory new rules, as an informal survey of four leading chefs in the Windy City illustrates.
Another reason for optimism is the involvement of IJ and its entrepreneurship clinic, which hosted a fantastic symposium on the mobile-vending regulatory climate in the city, My Streets, My Eats, at the University of Chicago School of Law this past April. (I served as a panelist at the conference.)
So what’s next for IJ and Chicago’s food trucks? Outreach? Education? Advocacy? More appeals to reason and fairness?
“We are taking a hard look at the new rules to figure out our next steps,” says IJ’s Kregor, “which might involve further advocacy for amendments or a lawsuit or both.”
That echoes something Bert Gall, a senior IJ attorney, said when asked at the April conference why the group hadn’t yet sued the city of Chicago over the lousy old rules.
“Chicago is definitely a potential litigation target for us,” Gall responded at the time.
Positive change—however it arrives—can’t come soon enough for some who, like Le, have poured their hearts and savings into building a thriving food-truck scene in Chicago.
“Despite all that has happened, I still believe that this is possible,” says Le. “I don't think this is going to be an easy road (no pun intended) but we will exhaust[*] all our options in order to protect the livelihood of the existing trucks and those to come."
“We made our dreams our reality, and the city has turned it into a nightmare.”
[*] Pun intended?
Baylen J. Linnekin, a lawyer, is executive director of Keep Food Legal, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that advocates in favor of food freedom—the right to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat, and drink the foods of our own choosing.