Chicago Suburb May Serve Up Food Truck Deregulation

Published June 13, 2016

Lawmakers in a Chicago suburb are proposing to remove restrictions on mobile food trucks to end a lawsuit filed by two area businessmen.

In 2012, James Nuccio and Gabriel Wiesen, the owners of Beavers Coffee and Donuts, a Chicago food truck business selling doughnuts and coffee, filed a lawsuit against the City of Evanston that challenged a city ordinance requiring all mobile food vendors to be owners of traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants in the city.

In June, lawmakers on the Evanston City Council’s Human Services Committee proposed revising the ordinance to drop the requirement.

Food Truck Excitement

Hilary Gowins, a managing editor with the Illinois Policy Institute, says lawmakers should allow Evanston consumers to have access to the products they want.

“Consumers are becoming more familiar with the [food] trucks, more trucks are expanding throughout the city, and there is generally much more excitement and enthusiasm for the food,” Gowins said. “Long story short, people are becoming more comfortable with food trucks, and they like what they’re getting. That familiarity is creeping north [to Evanston]. … Hopefully, it starts creeping south and west, too. But until there is sufficient demand for these laws to change, or until officials who believe in competition and fairness hold office, it’s incumbent upon the public and would-be food truck entrepreneurs to push for change.”

Recipe for Success

Gowins says the key to bringing in food-truck fans is cooking up a business-friendly regulatory climate.

“The cities that have the best food-truck climates, such as Los Angeles and [Washington, DC], keep their regulations to a minimum,” Gowins said. “Any rules should be limited to public-safety concerns. After that, public officials should allow the people to decide for themselves what they want out of food-truck vendors.”

Foodies of the World, Unite!

Daren Bakst, a research fellow in agricultural policy with The Heritage Foundation, says lawmakers will feel pressure from foodies to deregulate.

“As food trucks become more popular, and they certainly are very popular now, and the public recognizes that they are being deprived of great establishments through many of these regulations, I would expect these regulations to be loosened,” Bakst said.

Consumers Win

Bakst says lawmakers have little to fear from deregulation of food trucks.

“These ordinances are effectively a means to limit competition for the benefit of these competitors and at the expense of everyone else,” Bakst said. “Consumers are certainly harmed by these regulations, because they don’t have the same food choices they otherwise would have if such regulations didn’t exist.”

Matt Hurley ([email protected]) writes from Cincinnati, Ohio.