Food fight!

Food trucks sue city over its ordinance

  • Cupcakes for Courage and Schnitzel King sue the city challenging its food truck ordinance.
Cupcakes for Courage and Schnitzel King sue the city challenging its food… (Leonor Vivanco )
November 14, 2012|By Leonor Vivanco, @lvivanco | RedEye

Three operators of the Schnitzel King and Cupcakes for Courage food trucks filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court against the city, challenging two food truck ordinance provisions.

At issue are requirements that food trucks stay 200 feet away from brick-and-mortar street-level restaurants and install GPS devices.

“All of these provisions have one and only one reason: to protect a few politically-connected restaurateurs from competition,” Robert Frommer, staff attorney for the Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm representing the plaintiffs, said at a downtown news conference Wednesday.

“Government is here to protect our public health and safety, not decide which businesses should be given special treatment. It is the consumers who should make the decision about what businesses they should support, not the government.”

The City Council passed the food truck ordinance in July that also allows trucks to cook and prepare food onboard, expands their hours of operation and creates designated food truck stands. But it also increases the license fee and sets stiff penalties of up to $2,000.

As a result, food truck operators are “scared” to come to the Loop now, said Greg Burke, owner of Schnitzel King. He said the 200-foot rule makes it hard to do business.

“Competition is the American way,” Burke said. “If I don’t do well, I’ll fail. If [the restaurants] do well, they’ll succeed.”

Consumers benefit from the competition as well, Frommer said.

“That means the tens of thousands of office workers who every day would like to have something different for lunch, they don’t get that option to go to a food truck because the city took it away from them,” Frommer said.

Food truck operators are concerned about the impact the ordinance will have on their business.

“We’re fighting for the American dream because right now the American dream is being jeopardized by the way the current food truck ordinance is written,” said Kristen Casper, media relations director of the Schnitzel King truck.

With the 200-foot ban and mandatory GPS requirement, she said, “food trucks are literally being chased outside the city.”

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