The food truck craze has grown in the past few years to a popular way of getting lunch downtown. These vehicles serve anything from Indian curry to classic cupcakes to burgers, and while these are fun and affordable, they bring a lot of new concerns and regulations.
These worries, specifically from local brick-and-mortar businesses, specify the competition between businesses that must pay to maintain storefronts and the trucks that don’t have to worry about buildings. Businesses and the Chamber of Commerce in East Lakeview successfully stopped a food truck location from being approved last year, while 21 other locations made the cut by City Council.
These locations, created to establish parking spots for food trucks in high density areas, like the Loop and some north neighborhoods, work to alleviate some of that tension. Because of Chicago’s food truck regulations, requiring the mobile eateries to remain 200 feet away from a restaurant’s doors, it is difficult to park a food truck in the high-density areas, said Rudy Flores, executive director of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
For example, the intersection of Madison Street and Wacker Drive, where 5411 Empanadas regularly sits its truck for lunch hours during the week, is right by a restaurant, a cafe and a bar.
The new City Council ordinance allows food trucks to park in areas like that where it is more difficult to follow the 200-feet boundary regulation.
For this reason, the more residential Chicago neighborhoods, such as Lincoln Square and Ravenswood, don’t need to see these City Council-designated zones for food trucks. As long as the vehicles remain 200 feet from restaurant doors, food trucks can still park in these neighborhoods.
“There’s less need for these designated safe zones in [Ravenswood and Lincoln Square] because food trucks can easily navigate this neighborhood. It’s not that businesses [in this area] are fighting the zones or oppose them,” said Flores.
The same goes for the Bucktown and Wicker Park neighborhood, where restaurants don’t feel the need to fight against food trucks. In fact, restaurants like the popular taqueria Big Star use the novel concept as an opportunity for more marketing. One year ago, the much anticipated Big Star food truck arrived at its Damen and Pierce location, serving tacos and churros from the truck window.
Adam Burck, executive director of the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, agreed, “Businesses don’t really experience that tension with food trucks in this area.