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Food Truck Ordinance Stuck In Committee

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jan 16, 2012 10:30PM

Starfruit and Gaztro Wagon

Crain's Chicago Business has an in-depth article on the current state of the food truck ordinance, which is mired in committee, the two aldermen who are holding it there, and the campaign donations traced to them and other aldermen. Combined with other factors, it also serves as a snapshot into why maybe starting a food truck business isn't the best idea.

Despite Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressing support for the ordinance, it's been stuck in two committees, the City Council Committee for Economic, Capital and Technology Development, chaired by 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney; and the Committee on License and Consumer Protection chaired by 37th Ward Ald. Emma Mitts.

Tunney, as most know, owns Ann Sather's restaurants, and questions of his objectivity regarding the ordinance have persisted. (Karl Klockars posted financial disclosure forms showing Tunney's restaurants have been paid by the city for catering events at City Hall.) But the Licensing and Consumer Protection Committee chaired by Mitts is the real gatekeeper. Crain's has an infographic with their article that breaks down the donations to Tunney's and Mitts's campaigns by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Illinois Restaurant Association. Those two organizations have been leading the opposition to the food truck ordinance, citing their low overhead costs and questioning whether there are health risks associated with preparing and serving food in a mobile vehicle.

(We'll use that as a perfect opportunity to remind readers of the 146 cases of norovirus linked to Bob Chinn's Crab House last week.)

IRMA CEO David Fite rejects any connections between his organization's campaign donations to Tunney, Mitts and other aldermen and the bill being hung out to dry. We haven't talked to one alderman about this ordinance, He told Crain's. But when one alderman is a known restaurateur, it's easy for others to make the connections themselves.

32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack, sponsor of the ordinance, said he's been trying to sit down to discuss it with Tunney and Mitts. Tunney re-stated his position that the campaign donations haven't influenced his position. he also said he'd like to have joint hearings with the Licensing and Consumer Protection Committee on the bill. Meanwhile, food truck pioneers Meatyballs Mobile and Gaztro-Wagon have shuttered as the legislation languishes. Contrary to the line being toed by the IRMA and Illinois restaurant Association, the costs of starting a mobile food business are still fairly significant for the business owners. Bridgeport Pasty's Jay Sebastien told us in September he and wife Carrie Clark were glad the licensing process and buildout of their truck tempered their initial expectations.