Chicago mayor introduces food truck ordinance

The ordinance allows operators to prepare "food to order" on their trucks

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel voiced his support Wednesday for legalizing food trucks in the Windy City, introducing with three city aldermen an ordinance that would allow food truck operators to prepare “food to order” on board their trucks.

Up to now, food trucks in Chicago were permitted to sell only food that had been prepared in a brick-and-mortar commercial kitchen or commissary. The current group of food truck purveyors in Chicago includes sweets specialists like Cupcakes for Courage and Flirty Cupcakes, or those selling foods prepared in batches like the Southern Mac Truck.

Mayor Emanuel said in a statement that the ordinance is meant to support the current fleet of food trucks and spur more small business creation around the city’s “diverse and cultural scene.”

“Chicago’s small businesses are the backbones of our communities and are a vital part of what make our city a thriving place to live, work or visit,” Emanuel said. “The food truck industry in Chicago has been held back by unnecessary restrictions, and my administration is committed to common-sense changes that will allow this industry to thrive, creating jobs and supporting a vibrant food culture across the city.”

After months of conversations with restaurant operators and local aldermen about best practices from other major cities with food truck industries, the mayor’s office developed the ordinance to protect traditional restaurants and maintain public health while fostering a growth industry, Emanuel said.

In addition to allowing food to be prepared on board a food truck, the ordinance also calls for designating Food Truck Stands across the city. Those areas will go in each ward of the city, in spots decided upon by collaboration between aldermen, business owners and residents. Each food truck will be allowed to park at one food stand for up to two hours at a time, but the trucks will be allowed to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The mayor’s office also said that food trucks would be subject to the same food safety standards as traditional restaurants. The Chicago Department of Public Health will conduct regular inspections of all food trucks. At least one employee certified in food sanitation must be present to operate a food truck at all times, the ordinance requires.

All food trucks also will be required to use mounted GPS devices so that residents may track their whereabouts.

“Our neighborhoods are full of a diverse assortment of food and restaurant options, from family-owned to fusion,” said Alderman Joe Moreno, D-1st, a co-sponsor of the ordinance. “Creating these sensible avenues for the food truck industry to develop right alongside of these excellent options will be a boon for our food culture and neighborhood business development.”

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