Excitement brews about food truck ordinance

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South Side baked goods entrepreneur Randall Hunt can’t wait to acquire a food truck to spread his array of treats throughout Chicago now that the City Council passed an ordinance allowing vendors to prepare cooked food on their vehicles.

“I’m definitely considering (buying a truck),” said Hunt, 48, of Back of the Yards who owns and operates cookies w/flavor after learning of the city’s decision. “I will be able to get out and provide for my clientele.”

Food truck operators will now be permitted to prepare food to order on board their trucks and have the opportunity to park for free in newly created food truck stands in highly congested areas.

Currently, food truck operators are only allowed to sell food packaged in a commercial kitchen and park in metered spaces that are 200 feet from a retail food establishment.

The city’s aldermen said they were trying to balance the interests of Chicago’s restaurants against those of the food trucks. They contend that what they came up with will allow the food trucks to thrive in the city. The ordinance also requires the trucks to carry GPS devices so city officials can track them. Trucks can be parked in one spot for no more than two hours.

“We want food trucks to make money, but we don’t want to hurt brick-and-mortar restaurants,” said Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) before he voted for the ordinance.

Hunt, to ensure he produces the best quality cookies, normally would be prepare items via a satellite kitchen and then transports the goods in his car throughout the far South Side and even Oak Park. Now, he doesn’t have worry about that.

“This ordinance is a fair and workable compromise that will allow the food truck industry to grow across Chicago, after years of unnecessary restrictions, as a full part of our city’s vibrant food culture” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement after the ordinance was passed July 25. “The years of debate are over: commonsense changes like these allow job growth and small business development for Chicagoans.”

“Chicago deserves a thriving food truck industry. This ordinance opens doors for food entrepreneurs by expanding options for cooking, parking and business hours.” said Commissioner Rosemary Krimbel.

Tracee Bright, 38, of Roseland, who has operated the truck called Big Fat Tuesday since April that sells New Orleans style fare called the ordinance “awesome” when asked what it meant for her small business.

“Now that I have the ability to cook on the truck, I can take advantage of it,” said Bright.
The former New Orleans native who moved to Chicago not long after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, roams about South Shore, Roseland and Englewood neighborhoods to give area residents a taste dishes from her one-time home city.

While city officials have yet to determine how much revenue the mobile food truck ordinance could bring to the city and individual venders, a Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection spokesperson said the city expects to see somewhat of a boost in food trucks due to the measure.

Business owners like Hunt estimate he could bring in an extra $1,000 a day if all goes well.

“This is a game-changer,” he said.

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