The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Ask Chicagoist: Takeout Menu Ban?

By Thales Exoo in Miscellaneous on Jul 31, 2007 3:00PM

2007_07_askmenus.jpgA friend told me that Chicago has a new city ordinance that makes it illegal to leave papers (like menus and business ads) on fences lining a street. Is it true? I'm still getting plenty of worthless menus and stuff — what can I do to make them stop?

Recycle Bin

Dear Recycle Bin,

It's true. We told you about the pending legislation back in January, and it looks like the ordinance, strongly backed by Alderman Manny Flores, passed unanimously during the February 7 City Council meeting. Notice a big difference in your menu waste? Having nights where the complete lack of takeout menus in your building's foyer has left you hungry and confused about where you could possibly procure some food? Yeah, neither have we.

The amendment to Chapter 10-8 of Chicago Municipal Code states that:

It shall be unlawful for any person to distribute or to cause others to distribute ... advertising matter of any kind on any public way or other public place of the city in any manner other than from hand to hand.

The fine for violation is set at "not less than $200.00 or more than $1,000.00 for each offense."

The ordinance goes on to say that when passing handbills from hand to hand, only one flier can be given out, unless the person being given the flier expressly asks for more than one. We think the moral of the story is to be careful what you say. If you get too many Chinese food fliers from the guy by the L, the fine for the restaurant is between $25 and $50 for each offense. The ordinance does expressly say that it's the commercial establishment who has to pay the fine, not the guy on the street.

But that's public property. Private property gets even more fun!

The ordinance says, in regards to residential property, that:

... unlawful methods of distribution include, but are not limited to, hanging commercial advertising matter on the doorknob of any entrance door or gate, placing or wedging commercial advertising matter into or underneath any entrance door in such a manner that it could interfere with the door locking, or leaving a stack of commercial advertising matter on the premises.

That pretty well covers all the places our building still has fliers stacked up. Now, it's still OK, if the owners or property management post written consent, if the fliers are placed in a specially designated place, or if the materials are exchanged hand to hand. But, apparently they have to honor "No Trespassing" and "No Soliciting" signs. The fine here is $200-$1000 per offense.

On that same idea, newspapers, periodicals and things like the never ending supply of phone books (who uses phone books anymore?) that come to your home have to be neatly placed in bags so the papers don't blow all over the place. This only refers to things not delivered from a subscription or other request, so apparently the Tribune is welcome to litter if you pay for them to.

And you just can't put commercial advertising materials on automobiles at all anymore. Not under your wiper, and they can't hand you stuff while you're stopped in traffic. Right.

Finally, any fliers that are lawfully distributed (apparently there are still a couple of ways) must have the business' city business license number printed clearly on them. Oh, and if you hire someone to distribute fliers or phone books or anything covered here, you have to give the person a copy of the ordinance and "require compliance therewith." (We're sure it'll be studied very carefully.) If a business gets caught three or more times in a year, the Department of Business Affairs and Licensing can revoke its city business license.

If you see violators and want to report them, send complaints to your Ward Superintendent. Send the offensive menus to the office and be sure to indicate when and where they were distributed. Also keep in mind the emphasis (good, we think) that has been placed on the word "commercial." It's advertising they're going after very specifically. They even added the word to existing sections of the ordinance, we assume to try to keep First Amendment issues at bay.

Image via Maulleigh.

Can't decide between Thai and Pizza? Need some advice? Email ask(at)chicagoist(dot)com.