GPS trackers on PDX food carts? Thats not likely…
Portland carnivores might be salivating at the prospect of dozens of food trucks purveying Vienna hot dogs caravanning their way here from Chicago when they hear this news.
Mark it down in the “they just don’t get food carts” category. Chicago’s City Council has adopted a resolution that says food trucks (their version of food carts) cannot take up residence within 200 feet of any brick-and-mortar restaurant or even a Starbucks or convenience store.
Just to make sure none of those food trucks is cheating, all the truck operators are required to purchase GPS systems that will be monitored so city officials can see the location of each truck at all times. Food carts that settle too close to a restaurant will be fined up to $2,000 per incident.
Chicago’s food cart operators are swallowing hard at the new city rules. Beth Kregor, director of the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Law School, says city aldermen enacted the rule knowing there are practically no spaces in the downtown area that are not within 200 feet of a restaurant. Aldermen were not shy about explaining why they opted for the restrictions, according to Kregor.
“These laws are really in place because the restaurants want them to be in place,” she says.
Food truck owners told the council that the ordinances would destroy their businesses, though some of the new rules actually encourage food trucks. Previously, city ordinances forbid food preparation on a food truck or cart, so all that could be sold were meals such as sandwiches that had been cooked elsewhere and wrapped for sale. New rules allow on-site cooking.
Kregor sees the tussle in terms of established businesses versus new ones. Kregor figures the food cart risk taker of today is the restaurant owner of tomorrow.
“It’s really disturbing that this kind of entrepreneurship has been suppressed,” she says.
Dan Harding, co-owner of the popular Off The Griddle food cart on Southeast Division Street, which grew into the A.N.D cafÃ© on East Burnside Street and soon might become a full restaurant, says there’s no way such rules could happen in Portland.
“The food cart represents a foot in the door for a lot of young or aspiring chefs or restaurant owners,” Harding says. “There is a level of symbiosis in Portland.”
Harding says there are as many taverns as restaurants near his food cart on Division Street, and some have signs on their doors telling customers they are welcome to bring in their food cart food while they drink.
“The majority of bars are more than happy to have food carts in the neighborhood,” says Harding, adding that the Chicago rules could lead to a zombie-like civic chaos if enacted here.
“I wouldn’t want to say you’d have riots in Portland, but you would certainly have a lot of lost foodies roaming parking lots wondering where the carts have gone,” Harding says.