Schnitzel King, Cupcakes for Courage fighting Chicago food truck law

Libertarian 'Institute for Justice' set to represent them.

November 14, 2012

Caroline O'Donovan

The Libertarian Institute for Justice wants to do away with the mobile food ordinance, passed in July, saying it is stifling competition and entrepreneurial spirit, according to a lawsuit was filed against Chicago on Wednesday.

The food truck owners who filed the suit, two of the Schnitzel King and one of Cupcakes for Courage, have been allied with the Institute for Justice for years. Some even testified in front of city council before the ordinance was passed. They say the laws about proximity make it hard for them to keep the business going.

Manny Hernandez, owner of the Tamale Spaceship, hasn’t been ticketed for a violation yet, but he says it’s almost impossible to park his truck with violating the 200-foot rule. He’s not a fan of the mandatory GPS in his truck either. “I almost feel like I am under house arrest. But I go by the book, so I just gotta take it.”

Robert Frommer, lead litigator for the case, doesn’t think Hernandez, or any other food truck owners, should have to take these laws. He argues that mandating a GPS device violates rights to privacy, and says the proximity laws didn’t stand a chance when the Institute fought them in Texas.

“The city of El Paso pretty quickly realized that it was on very shaky legal footing. We hope that Chicago comes to the same conclusion.” The El Paso case only took four months; conventional wisdom says the case in Chicago will take a little longer. The Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship’s director, Beth Kregor, says it could take years before a decision is made. 

The city says the standing ordinance, which follows decades of debate, is common sense. But the Institute is ready for a fight. The even had their communications office in Virginia work up this Game of Thrones parody to help make their case: 

The city has made some efforts to make the ordinance more fair. In neighborhoods where there are so many restaurants that the proximity law becomes excessively restrictive, the city had designated food truck stands where they may still legally operate. But Frommer says this is a minor gesture that solves a problem of the city’s own doing.

Meanwhile, Manny Hernandez says he hasn’t been ticketed for a violation yet and isn’t that worried about the ordinance. “But my thing, “he added, “is why do we have to be treated like second class citizens? I pay taxes just like everybody else.”