Type: Law Bulletins
Date: 07/02/2012

Summary of New City of Chicago Food Truck Ordinance

At the Chicago City Council meeting of Wednesday, June 27, 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was joined by several aldermen in sponsoring a substitute ordinance concerning the licensing, regulation and operation of food trucks in the city. Presently, the Municipal Code allows mobile food dispensers to sell pre-wrapped, pre-packaged food items prepared in a licensed commissary kitchen from vehicles parked in various locations throughout the city. While retaining many of the current regulations applicable to such operations, the Mayor’s substitute ordinance proposes several significant changes to these existing regulations. The most significant change is allowing food to be prepared and cooked on food trucks. The most significant substantive changes to the existing law proposed by the substitute ordinance are:

  • A new license classification, known as Mobile Food Vendor, is created having four subcategories:
    • Mobile Food Dispenser (sale of pre-packaged food items from a wheeled vehicle, as presently permitted)
    • Mobile Food Preparer (preparation and cooking of food on a wheeled vehicle and sale to the public from that vehicle)
    • Mobile Desserts Vendor (sale to the public of pre-packaged frozen desserts from a motorized or non-motorized wheeled vehicle)
    • Produce Merchant
      A comprehensive set of provisions are included which govern the construction and outfitting of mobile food vehicles, and operational, health and sanitary requirements are also established.
  • Mobile food dispensers and preparers must participate in a pre-application consultation with the Chicago Department of Public Health at which operational characteristics are reviewed and a copy of a proposed menu and a Food Sanitation Manager’s Certificate must be submitted.  If propane or natural gas is to be used on the mobile food vehicle, proof of insurance (minimum coverage limit $350,000 per occurrence) must be submitted.
  • The city may limit the overall number of mobile food vendor licenses that it will issue.  Also, no more than 10% of the total number of such licenses allowed in any of the above categories may be issued to any one person.
  • A mobile food vehicle stands program is created whereby locations in each of the city’s designated community areas may be established in which mobile food vehicles may be operated at all times or at specified periods.  In community areas having more than 300 retail food establishment licenses, a minimum of five such stands are to be established.
  • An exemption is created from the current rule prohibiting the parking of a mobile food vehicle within 200 feet of an existing restaurant for the period between 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.
  • An exemption is created for designated mobile food vehicle stands from the current provision prohibiting mobile food vehicles from parking on certain segments of certain streets in the downtown area.
  • Restrictions are established prohibiting the parking of mobile food vehicles in the following areas:
    • Within 20 feet of a crosswalk
    • Within 30 feet of a stop sign or stop light
    • Adjacent to a protected bicycle lane
  • Mobile food vehicles may park on private property subject to the following conditions:
    • The vehicle operator has a valid lease with the property owner
    • Locating the vehicle at the site is in compliance with the provisions of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance
    • The mobile food vehicle operator complies with the current provision limiting stops in any one location to two hours
  • All mobile food vehicles are to be equipped with a permanently installed Global Positioning System (GPS) unit which reports to a publicly-accessible Application Programming Interface (API).  A rebuttable presumption is created that a mobile food vehicle was actually in the places and for the periods indicated by the GPS data.

The substitute ordinance was referred to the City Council’s Committee on License and Consumer Protection, which will hold a hearing on the ordinance at its next regularly scheduled meeting on July 19th.  The full City Council will then pass the substitute ordinance at its next regularly scheduled meeting on July 25th. As is often the case, revisions to the present substitute ordinance may be made prior to the committee hearing. We will continue to monitor the substitute ordinance and report on any noteworthy revisions.


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