Food truck drivers sue city over ordinance

By Kaley Fowler

Although a City Council ordinance, approved Oct. 31, has designated 21 new parking spaces for food trucks, several owners are claiming the city’s food truck map unfairly favors established eateries.

In conjunction with the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm, three truck owners filed a lawsuit Nov. 14 against the city seeking to overturn several provisions of the ordinance. Disputed passages include a rule that prevents trucks from parking within 200 feet of a business that sells food, which includes gas stations and convenience stores, and a requirement that all food trucks  be equipped with a GPS tracking device that can be accessed by the city.

“The intent of this law is clearly to protect businesses from competition,” said Robert Frommer, the attorney who is representing the owners of two food trucks behind

the lawsuit: Laura Pekarik, owner of Cupcakes for Courage, and Kristen Casper and Greg Burke the co-owners of Schnitzel King.

The owners have said they feel they are being treated differently than entrepreneurs who choose to open brick-and-mortar eateries.

“The American Dream is being jeopardized by the way the current food truck ordinance is written,”Casper said. “With the 200-foot rule and mandatory GPS requirement, food trucks are literally being chased out of the city [and] out of the Loop.”

The 200-foot rule has caused an uproar among food truck owners who say the law prevents them from competing with other restaurants.

“You could go anywhere else in the country and have greater freedom without a doubt,” Burke said. “I don’t know why [other businesses] are afraid of us. Competition is the American way.”

City officials declined to comment on the lawsuit, according to Roderick Drew, director of public affairs for the Law Department. He said city officials believe the current ordinance is in the best interest of drivers, existing businesses and consumers.

“There have been decades of debate, and we finally passed a common sense ordinance that will allow this new industry to flourish and expand Chicago’s great culinary offerings,” Drew stated in an email.

But Pekarik said the laws are stifling the growth of her business.

“These laws are extremely stringent upon [food truck owners], and it’s making it hard for my truck to be a success,” she said. “I just want to live the American Dream and be able to sell my product.”

While the owners hope to get rid of the 200-foot rule and GPS requirement, they do not seek to overturn the ordinance entirely, according to Frommer. He said the ordinance is a step in the right direction, but it should cater to the interests of food truck owners, not other businesses.

“The intent of the law is to protect one class of businesses from competition,” Frommer said. “The government is here to protect our public health and safety, not to decide which businesses should be given special treatment. It is consumers who should make the decision about what businesses they want to support.”