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

Tammy Godon - Flickr / CC-BY 2.0

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.

According to Frommer, the number of food trucks in Chicago dropped by 40 percent since the ordinance was enacted.

Food truck owners are also challenging a requirement to install GPS locators, allowing them to be inspected at any time. The court is considering whether that can be considered an unconstitutional search.

There is no timetable for the court's decision. 

The case is LMP Services v. The City of Chicago, No. 123123.

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