Illinois Supreme Court upholds food truck restrictions

Crain’s Chicago Business | Dalton Barker | May 23, 2019

The court sided with City Hall in a years-long battle between restaurants and the food trucks that they argue are muscling in on their turf.

Chicago’s food truck restrictions were upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday, affirming appellate and circuit rulings.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2012 by food truck owner Laura Pekarik, who operates Cupcakes for Courage. Pekarik and other food truck operators argued that the city’s rule prohibiting their mobile businesses from parking within 200 feet of any food establishment were anti-competitive.

Food truck owners faced fines of $2,000 if they violated the restriction, which they argued curbed growth and placed undue burdens on their businesses.

Additionally, Chicago’s law that all food trucks possess GPS tracking devices violated their individual privacy was also struck down by the court.

“Today’s decision is heartbreaking, not so much for me, but for those entrepreneurs who are just getting started,” Pekarik said in a release. “Chicago admitted its 200-foot rule enriched restaurateurs by chasing off their mobile competitors. I hoped the Illinois Supreme Court would reject this kind of government picks the winners and losers approach, where success turns not on how good your product is, but on who you know at City Hall. Justice did not prevail today.”

Sam Toia, president and chief executive officer of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said he was pleased with the court’s decision and was eager to work with both restaurants, local politicians and food truck owners in finding a healthy balance for the city. “We can work on things like the number of hours food trucks can be in one place,” Toia suggested, while adding that the association was open to exploring new ideas to help the food truck community.

According to analysis from the Institute of Justice, which represented Pekarik, Chicago’s food-truck industry has shrunk by over 40 percent in the past six years.

 

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