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Food Trucks Would Be Able To Stay In One Spot For Four Hours Under Plan Backed By License Committee

by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Food trucks in Chicago would be allowed to set up shop in one place for up to four hours -- twice the current legal limit -- under an ordinance the City Council License Committee gave unanimous support on Wednesday.

Food trucks are currently required to park at least 200 feet away from brick-and-mortar restaurants, and can only operate for two hours, which owners said often leaves them with not enough time to make a profit, given how long it takes to set up and break down their trucks.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot last month introduced an ordinance that would give food trucks four hours to operate in any legal spot.

The measure won unanimous approval from the License Committee on Wednesday, after minimal discussion.

The ordinance also had won the support of the Illinois Restaurant Association, which once resisted allowing food trucks to operate at all in Chicago, seeing them as unwanted and unfair competition for traditional restaurants.

"At the Illinois Restaurant Association, we believe in promoting and supporting all members of the culinary industry, from established brick-and-mortars to food trucks to everything in between," Illinois Restaurant Association President and CEO Sam Toia said in a statement. "By expanding operating hours for food trucks, Chicago is encouraging innovation while balancing the interests of both food trucks and restaurants."

The ordinance extending hours for food trucks also establishes a permanent license for mobile merchants that sell goods other than food. Those businesses have been operating since 2016 under temporary "emerging business licenses" that were set to expire soon.

The new permanent licenses will cost $250, and allow mobile merchants to set up in any legal parking space for up to four hours, and could operate only between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Some aldermen expressed concern that mobile merchants might eat into the profits of brick-and-mortar stores that sell the same products, if they were to set up shop on the street outside, but Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Rosa Escareno said the existing mobile merchants often serve as a complement to traditional stores.

For example, Escareno said a mobile merchant that sells shoes might choose to set up outside a brick-and-mortar clothing store. She also said, unlike when someone is deciding where to go to eat, shoppers don't necessarily go to just one store when they're buying other goods like clothes, shoes, jewelry, or books.

The ordinance regarding food trucks and mobile merchants will now go to the full City Council for a vote next week.

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