Atlantic Cities

It Took Months to Reach a Deal on Chicago Food Trucks

It Took Months to Reach a Deal on Chicago Food Trucks
Flickr/yooperann

Chicago food truck owners have faced a lot of obstacles over the past few years, including angry restaurant owners, cops handing out tickets and city regulations that limited them to food that was prepared ahead of time.

Now, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and two alderman are teaming up to clear some of those hurdles.

On Wednesday, the trio plans to introduce a new ordinance that will let owners cook on their trucks. If the ordinance clears committee hearings, the full city council will vote on it in July.

The deal took months to prepare, requiring negotiations between restaurant and truck owners and politicians. Chicago, which has fewer than 50 food trucks, is miles behind San Francisco and Los Angeles, where hundreds of trucks are on the streets.

Under the new proposal, truck owners would be able to cook food to order, park at designated food truck stands across the city, operate around the clock, and stay in a location for up to two hours. Trucks would have to undergo regular health department inspections, and at lease one employee on site would have to have sanitation training.

In a city with politics in its life's blood, the ordinance gleams with compromise. The food truck stands, similar to food truck courts in places like Ann Arbor, Michigan, are a nod to brick-and-mortar restaurant owners and will keep trucks from taking up precious neighborhood parking spaces. The locations would be set up in wards across the city, allowing local aldermen to be involved in the selection process.

Meanwhile, each truck will have to have a GPS device, so they can be tracked by the city (allowing police to track down trucks that stray from designated areas). But that also will let customers know where trucks can be found, according to the mayor’s announcement.

Top image: Flickr user yooperann, via creative commons

Micheline Maynard is journalist living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She most recently led Changing Gears, a public radio project exploring the reinvention of the industrial Midwest, and was previously Detroit bureau chief for The New York Times. All posts »

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