It’s still illegal to cook food on board a food truck in Chicago, but the antiquated law may soon change. Crain’s reports that lawmakers are considering changing the laws in Chicago to allow chefs to cook on food trucks in the city on a limited basis. According to Crain’s, the victory for food truck operators is bitter-sweet, as they will face tighter parking restrictions, higher license fees, and only 200 licenses will be issued. Lawmakers warn that there will be severe fines imposed on food truck operators who break the rules.

Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, left, and Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, 1st, plan to introduce an expanded proposed ordinance Wednesday that would create loading zone-like food truck stands in the city. (Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune / May 9, 2012)

The Department of Business and Consumer Protection met with food truck operators to discuss two proposals for new vending laws that would allow mobile chefs to cook on city streets in their vehicles. If approved, the new laws would be effective within 10 days.

A long time coming.

Street Food Now is a coalition to support a movement that in convincing the city of Chicago to reassess the current regulations requiring food trucks to sell only prepared, prepackaged foods.

The original proposed food truck laws have been debated for nearly two years, leaving mobile chefs and foodies who demand street food in limbo. The new proposals are a reprieve to the long battle between city lawmakers, restaurateurs, and mobile food operators. The new laws could be introduced for vote at a full City Council meeting tomorrow.

Big Brother has his eye on food trucks.

While lawmakers are willing to grant limited licenses to food truck operators, the new rules will include GPS tracking and monitoring. Law enforcement officials in Chicago will monitor the movement and locations of food trucks, using GPS systems installed on each truck. Food trucks will be allowed to operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week, but for only two hours at any location. Violators will face steep fines up to $2,500 and possible revocation of their licenses. City officials will also monitor employees at food trucks to assure that at least one employee on board at any given time has undergone food sanitation training – the employees’ certificates of training must be on board at all times. The food trucks will also be subject to regular inspection by the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel gives mobile chefs the green light.

In a public statement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that a new ordinance would be introduced tomorrow, allowing food truck operators to prepare food to order by July 4th. “The food truck industry in Chicago has been held back by unnecessary restrictions, and my administration is committed to common-sense changes that will allow this industry to thrive, creating jobs and supporting a vibrant food culture across the city,” Emanuel said in the statement, according to Crain’s. He said that the ordinance “protects traditional restaurants, maintains public health standards, and fosters this growing industry.”

Not a perfect solution for everyone.

Amy Le, owner of the Duck N Roll truck

Some food truck operators, like Amy Le, owner of the Duck N Roll truck feel that the new laws impose even greater restrictions on food trucks than the current rules. Emanuel plans to establish specific food vending locations throughout the city, which will limit the food trucks’ ability to change locations, as needed. Food truck operators feel that the new restrictions may limit exposure to customers, and isolate them from high-traffic locations. Some of the Mayor’s proposed locations will have space for only two food trucks, and will be available only on a first-come, first-served basis.

However, food trucks will be allowed to park in the places they currently park, provided they are no closer than 200 feet to a competing restaurant.

Not in the clear, yet.

There are no promises that new laws will be introduced in tomorrow’s City Council meeting, and even if they are, they are still subject to the scrutiny of a public hearing. “How it’s written now — the impact of it — is really going to make or break a lot of our businesses,” Le told Crain’s. “If you put us in a desert, the stands mean nothing to us. It’s not a concession. It’s not a benefit.”
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About the Author

Chris Ford is the founder of Stitches 'n Dishes and editor in chief with a passion for food, photography and travel. Chris is a Media Correspondent for the Food Network TV show, Eat St, a syndicated blogger, seasoned event organizer and promoter, a food critic, a marketing consultant and Social Media Marketing expert. Chris is also a fashion and entertainment photographer. When he's not dining on the sidewalk, he's snapping photos on the catwalk.