7/25/2012 05:05:00 PM

New Food Truck Ordinances Leave Owners Unsatisfied

Amy Le takes her first customer's order at the Duck N Roll truck
They ayes have it with a vote of 44 to one (and one abstaining) to approve the new food truck ordinances.

A city council meeting was held today to vote on new rules that include allowing food preparation on trucks, but increases licensing and penalty fees. The truck owners were highly opposed to a new 200-foot buffer rule (which was first enforced 20-years-ago before the food truck boom), since it does not allow trucks to park within 200 feet of restaurants with the exception of designated food truck stands.

The city council meeting unfurled on Twitter, as food truck owners commented on the proceedings. Alex Levin, known as the Food Truck Freak - who maintains a website that aggregates food truck information, was among those watching the meeting.

Levin said that despite the aldermen holding several committee meetings with food truck owners, there has been little tangible proposals for compromise. “The only compromise being made are consumer rights and the constitutional rights of the food truck owners,” she said after we reached out to her for comment.

Levin attributes some of the alderman’s firm stance on restrictive food truck regulations to financial ties to brick-and-mortar restaurants. According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, contributions have been made to various aldermen in the name of Gibson’s, Ann Sather’s and Harry Caray’s.

Levin said another fallacy in the argument in favor of the 200-foot rule was repeated references to Boston as a guide for “best practices” in terms of food truck management. Boston, which has a small food truck population compared to Los Angeles or New York City, uses GPS to monitor trucks, which are not allowed to operate on public property except in pre-designated parking spots, according to the mobile food truck ordinance passed a year ago.

In lieu of the new ordinance, Chicago trucks will now also be donning mandatory GPS devices to monitor their locations and to enforce the 200-foot regulation. Last night, during an interview on Chicago Tonight, Amy Le, owner of the Duck N Roll truck and co-founder of the Illinois Food Truck Association, said, “The GPS is there to enforce the 200-foot buffer. For us it’s a bit of an invasion of our privacy as a private business owner - to be tracked 24-7 even though we haven’t committed a crime. We view it as an ankle bracelet even though we haven’t done anything wrong yet.”

Grant Deporter, CEO of Harry Caray’s restaurant group and former chairman of the Illinois Restaurant Association who also appeared on the show, said that the GPS tracking system would help alert customers to the food trucks' whereabouts, however, this is already facilitated through social media. He also noted that GPS tracking will help regulate health inspections and prevent competition with tax paying brick and mortar restaurants.

“I think this might shut down the food truck community as we know it today,” Le said.

The ordinances we passed along with two last minute amendments including banning operation between 2 and 5 AM as well as prohibiting operation in vacant lots even with the owner’s permission. During the council meeting the Flirty Cupcakes truck tweeted that this will be a death sentence for the food truck industry.

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