Chicago Food Trucks Take Beef With City To State’s High Court

Dana Vollmer | NPR Illinois | January 23, 2019

The Illinois Supreme Court is considering whether Chicago’s regulations on food trucks unfairly stifle competition.

A city ordinance bans food trucks from parking within 200 feet of the entrance to a brick-and-mortar restaurant. The city claims it protects property taxpayers who invest in their storefronts.

Attorney Robert Frommer, who represents food truck owners, said the court’s decision could have implications beyond the dining sector.

“No matter the industry, officials could hobble newcomers to protect entrenched existing groups who they claimed were important, too,” Frommer told the court. “The constitutional right to practice your trade would be no better than your ability to curry favor with someone at city hall.”

Suzanne Loose, an attorney for the city, said the ordinance is meant to balance the interests of food trucks and traditional restaurants.

“The purpose is not to suppress competition, but to protect the many benefits that brick and mortars do bring to Chicago — tax revenue, jobs,” Loose told the court. “They make a major contribution to tourism and bring cultural contributions to the city.”

The ordinance also alleviates sidewalk congestion, Loose said, and encourages food trucks to park in underserved areas.

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