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Ticket that Truck?

By Minna A in Food on Dec 15, 2010 8:40PM

Gaztro Wagon via Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist
Food trucks throughout Chicago have thousands of followers, and the number of fans on facebook are growing every day. Newspapers and magazines alike can’t stop raving about these new “foodie” destinations. And we are delighted with Chicago food trucks’ new food offerings. Is this a unanimous chorus of welcomes for food trucks? Not quite yet.

While Chicago’s notoriety as a foodie destination is undisputed, there has been some hesitation in accepting the new wave of restaurants on wheels. A long list of restrictions and regulations keep food trucks from operating at their full potential and saddles these entrepreneurs with the added costs of tickets and fines.

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal published an article describing not only the strict rules and constant ticketing food truck owners face, but also a new rivalry growing between anchored food locales and roving food trucks. Cupcake Counter owner Holly Sjo called the cops on the Flirty Cupcakes truck, telling police that the signature blue cupcake van was in an illegal spot parked too close to her Cupcake Counter storefront. Current ordinances state that parking within “200 feet of a restaurant and 100 feet of a business offering a similar service” is violation and ticketable offense.

In August, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) proposed a new city ordinance to allow food trucks to prepare foods on-site in their trucks if they pass health inspection regulations applied to standard commercial kitchens. Restaurateurs in Chicago have complained loudly, claiming the new ordinance will create an uneven playing field. Many restaurants in Chicago invest more than $1 million on real estate and equipment, while a food truck operation can get underway for less than $150,000.

Restaurant owners are calling for stricter regulations on food trucks, worried about the potential for competition. Dan Rosenthal, owner of Trattoria No. 10 and Sopraffina Marketcaffe Restaurants warns in the Sun Times, “people had better be careful what they wish for. They could end up with food trucks that serve standard fare, rather than unique street food.”

To the naysayer restaurateurs calling for stricter rules, pioneer food trucker Matt Maroni responds, “Just step up your game, McDonald's doesn't ask Burger King if they can open up across the street."