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Sunday, April 15, 2012

"You gotta fight for your right to food truck!"

After attending the My Streets My Eats: Chicago Mobile Food Symposium & Meet Up, hosted by the University of Chicago Law School’s Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship, it was evident that we must do a better job of advocating and associating for the progressive movement of street food in Chicago. We were reminded at the symposium that the 14th Amendment prevents the government from arbitrarily interfering with our ability to earn an honest living in our chosen occupations. Bert Gall (seen below far left), the Patron Saint of Food Trucks and senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, said yesterday, “It is your constitutional right to have economic opportunity and to not have it covered up by protectionist restrictions” (aka the vague and elusive city of Chicago ordinance). 

photo by Institute for Justice

Why won’t the City of Chicago allow food trucks a fair shot in the marketplace? It is well known that the restaurants in Chicago who are against food trucks use their lobbies when they feel threatened, as evident by the harsh parking restrictions in the current food truck ordinance. Currently, the ordinance says a food truck must be at least 200 ft. away from a “restaurant”, which coincidentally leave less than enough legal spots for all the current food trucks to park in the city (check out the map). New ordinances with less restrictive regulations have been proposed, but the aldermen cannot come to an amicable solution that would keep the restaurants happy while also allowing food trucks to fairly operate on the streets.

It’s not like we are asking to be millionaires, just a fair shot at making an honest living! But that seems impossible for trucks to do when the current ordinance makes it difficult to operate and the city aldermen are extremely sensitive to the needs of established brick and mortars. Elizabeth Kregor, Director of the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship, stated in an open letter to Chicago Alderman last August, “More fundamentally, it is unfair favoritism to squelch the mobile food businesses to protect the brick-and-mortar restaurants. Citizens of Chicago have a constitutional right to equal protection: the city may not give special protection to one group of business owners.

When the businesses of El Paso, Texas food truckers Yvonne Castaneda, Maria Robledo, Martha Avila, and Michelle Garcia suffered because of their city’s unfair regulations on food trucks, they filed a federal lawsuit against the city of El Paso challenging the constitutionality of its economic protectionism. They fought for their right to keep vending on the streets of El Paso, represented by none other than the Institute for Justice . In response to the lawsuit, El Paso City officials passed a new ordinance eliminating the protectionist regulations against mobile food vendors, which was a major victory for food trucks and for economic liberty (Read more about the case).

Together, we can help the food truck scene thrive in Chicago and correspondingly create economic opportunity for entrepreneurs. We need to keep on disproving negative connotations and misconceptions that currently exist about food trucks, but this starts at the grassroots level. Rumor has it that the new mobile food ordinance will be put in front of Mayor Emmanuel soon, possibly as soon as this week.  If you support Chicago food trucks, economic opportunity, and constitutionality, now is the time to talk to your local alderman.  

photo by Institute for Justice

You gotta fight for your right to food truck!

Royally yours,

Visit to learn more about your right to eat.

Visis to learn more about the My Streets My Eats Campaign.

John Arena
Michael D. Chandler

Willie Cochran
Rey Colon
Timothy Cullerton

Jason Ervin
Toni Foulkes
Leslie Hairston 
Sandi Jackson
Lona Lane
Roberto Maldonado

Emma Mitts
Proco Joe Moreno
Ameya Pawar
Michelle Smith
Thomas Tunne
Michael Zalewski
James Cappleman
George A. Cardenas
Thomas Tunney
Bob Fioretti
Deborah Graham

Mary O’Connor
Matthew O’Shea

Marty Quinn

Ariel Reboyras
Roderick Sawyer
Debra Silverstein
Nicholas Sposato

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