In Memoriam, Chicago Food Trucks, 2010-2012?

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Proof that brick and mortar businesses and food trucks can't mix. Photo: courtesy E.leaven

Our headline may or may not prove to be true, but it accurately sums up the mood of many food truck advocates after yesterday's vote in the Chicago City Council's License and Consumer Protection Committee. While food truck advocates got some things they wanted the ability to cook on board, and special food truck stands brick and mortar restaurant owners got a set of restrictions which will make it very difficult for food trucks to serve the areas where they're wanted by actual consumers. And the penalties for violations are so substantial that it should be no trouble at all for a city inspector to essentially bankrupt a food truck with tickets where health inspection violations usually involve $250 tickets, the trucks face $1000 fines for most violations.

Among the restrictions are GPS monitoring (again, because Chicago is so crime-free the police have nothing better to do than watch cupcakes drive around town), the not-within-200-feet-of-a-restaurant-rule which will surely put most of the Loop and Mag Mile out of reach for food trucks except at the few designated stands (10 in the downtown area, according to one report), prohibiting operation in vacant lots even with the lot owner's permission, and no operation at all between 2 and 5 a.m. (which had, at one point, been a possible do-whatever-you-want time).

And it's all in the name of protecting you, citizens. When you hear that Chicago has the 3rd highest unemployment rate in the nation of major cities (Detroit no longer counts), don't think for a minute that it's city government that suppresses entrepreneurship in order to protect the well-connected that's one of the causes. After all, just because every other major city in the nation has figured out how to crack this puzzle without driving expensive steakhouses out of business doesn't mean that a few slider trucks couldn't devastate our restaurant scene like Ebola on wheels.

Louisa Chu of WBEZ attended the entire hearing and tweeted many of the details as they happened; she promises a fuller report on her experience later this afternoon here.