EDITORIAL Chicago Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Food truck entrepreneur Laura Pekarik is taking her case to lift restrictions on Chicago food trucks all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court. She originally sued the city of Chicago back in 2012 after the City Council passed an ordinance heavily regulating food trucks.
Perhaps the seven Illinois Supreme Court justices are hankering for mocha fudge-frosted cupcakes or lobster rolls drizzled with Irish butter.
Maybe the possibility of crispy cheddar-rosemary Tater Tots got their attention. Whatever the craving, the court has agreed to hear the case of food truck operators fighting City Hall.
Laura Pekarik, owner of the Cupcakes for Courage food truck, sued the city of Chicago in 2012 after the City Council passed an ordinance heavily regulating food trucks.
The ordinance banned them from parking within 200 feet of bricks-and-mortar restaurants and convenience stores, limited them to two hours of sales and required them to install tracking devices that city officials can monitor.
If truck owners break the rules, they face steep fines.
Not only did the restrictions weaken the food truck industry here, Pekarik argues in her lawsuit that the ordinance is unconstitutional.
Most of the Loop is inaccessible under the rules, she says. The tracking devices -- a requirement of getting a license -- are a privacy violation. And the city is discriminating against food truck operators to protect the more politically connected restaurant industry, the suit alleges.
That got the Institute for Justice, a national legal advocate for startups, involved. The institute has been representing Pekarik in her case.
We've said it before: The ordinance is too restrictive. Rather than embrace a new industry back in 2012, the City Council choked it. The food truck business has been stagnant as a result. About 100 trucks are licensed in Chicago, compared with nearly 600 in Los Angeles and more than 300 in Houston, according to a food truck website.
Yes, you'll have to drive to Texas for a buttermilk fried chicken-and-waffle sandwich with chili honey sauce. (Have we persuaded the justices to throw out the ordinance? Because we're also missing out on lump crabcake casserole with horseradish cream, available from a food truck in Seattle).
Government should not be in the business of picking sides in the healthy competition of food wars. The city should get out of the way. Let the lunch crowd decide between a sit-down meal with a tablecloth or a walk-up window with a paper napkin.
The court isn't expected to announce a decision in the case until the fall. That means not much will change over the summer -- except the possibility of more food trucks going out of business. And what a shame. We would hate for the justices to miss out on fudge cupcakes right outside their offices at 160 N. LaSalle St. There's a sturdy curb out front. Perfect for an entrepreneur.