City discusses food truck ordinance

Nora Shelly, Assistant City Editor

Changes to Evanston’s food truck laws may be on the way, after aldermen on the Human Services Committee directed city staff to draft proposed regulations Monday night.

The current city ordinance requires that any business wishing to have a licensed food truck in Evanston also have a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the city. No current restaurants in Evanston have food trucks under this regulation, according to a report by city officials.

At least one Evanston business does operate a mobile food business: Amanecer Breakfast Tacos serves their food out of a smaller-sized car around Northwestern’s campus and throughout other downtown areas. La Cocinita, which has a brick-and-mortar location in Evanston, 1625 Chicago Ave., operates food trucks in Chicago and New Orleans and plans to operate one in Evanston.

Food trucks are allowed in Evanston on a temporary basis for events, but require special permits to do so.

The revisions, which were introduced for discussion to the Human Services Committee in March, would remove the requirement that a food truck be associated with a brick-and-mortar restaurant and decrease the distance from schools that food trucks have to maintain. The proposed revisions would not require food trucks to stay away from establishments like hotels and big-box stores that sell food but not as their main form of business.

“We don’t want a food truck blocking the view or the access to businesses in a given area,” assistant city manager Marty Lyons said during the meeting.

City staff is taking into consideration suggestions from a workshop meeting of representatives from business district groups, restaurants and food trucks that took place last month. Suggestions included establishing spots where food trucks would be permitted and limiting how long they could be parked there.

Aldermen added at Monday night’s meeting that the fees food trucks would have to pay should be carefully reviewed to maintain a fair situation for all city businesses.

“If they’re going to come in and take business, than their fees have to match that,” Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) said. “You just can’t come into a community where other restaurants, brick-and-mortar or whatever, are paying their share of those costs.”

The city is currently being sued by the Chicago-operated food truck Beavers Donuts over the current requirements. The suit is still pending, but Jacob Huebert, who is representing Beavers Donuts, told the Daily revisions could affect the lawsuit.

“If the city takes away the rule that you can’t have a food truck in Evanston if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar, that would be good news,” Huebert told The Daily. “We would hope at the same time that they wouldn’t put in regulations that would make it very hard for a food truck to come into Evanston.”

Chicago allows food trucks without brick-and-mortar locations to operate in the city, but it does impose a two-hour limit on how long trucks can operate in one location and limits the distance food trucks can be from food establishments. Chicago is being sued for the law that food trucks must have a GPS onboard so the city can track where they are operating.

Nathaniel Davis, a Winnetka resident, said he was in the process of building up a food truck business, and he said he had hoped to do business in Evanston.

“The law that says you have to be associated with a brick-and-mortar is bogus,” he said. “If that law is in place, no one can do anything as far as a food truck goes.”

The new proposed revisions will be brought before the committee again at their meeting in June.

Twitter: @noracshelly