Friday, May 24, 2019

Illinois Supreme Court sides with the aged, not with fans of “food trucks”

I have a cousin, some 20 or so years younger than I, who considers himself something of a “foodie.” Quick to check out exotic cuisines and always on the lookout for an interesting place to eat.
Dining under the "L" tracks. Photos by Gregory Tejeda
Yet I know he’s also a big fan of the “scene” that has developed in Chicago to have “food trucks,” rolling restaurants of sorts that are capable of bringing unusual food items to the neighborhood.

THOSE TRUCKS RECEIVED a legal blow from the Illinois Supreme Court, which on Thursday ruled previous rulings by the Cook County and Illinois Appellate courts that have sided with Chicago city government’s restrictions on food trucks.

Such as the one preventing a food truck from parking itself within 200 feet of a more conventional restaurant. Or the rules requiring the food trucks to contain GPS devices to make it easier for city officials to track their movements.

The food truck operators filed their original lawsuit back in 2012, contending that such restrictions harmed their ability to do business. And as for the GPS, they say it’s a violation of their right to privacy to have someone being able to track their movements throughout the city.

Yet the Illinois Restaurant Association contends they’re willing to work with the food truck operators to reach some sort of compromise to allow them to operate in partnership with more conventional restaurants.

ALTHOUGH I DO suspect that for the restaurants, the “compromise” resembles something along the lines of “withering away and dying.” They don’t really want more competition when it comes to the concept of preparing and serving food.

Particularly from a food truck, which is an operation that has far lower overhead costs than maintaining a conventional restaurant in a physical building and having to maintain the kind of staff required to operate a restaurant.

I don’t doubt the restaurants think these food operators are thinking the food trucks are playing unfair. Probably the more we hear the phrase “roach coach” used to refer to them, the worse business is becoming.

Can this Pilsen neighborhood restaurant compete?
I do have to admit to a bias, and it’s probably one because of age. I personally have little interest in searching out the food truck that serves the best Korean-inspired tacos, or even the best conventional (ie, ketchup-less) hot dog.

FOR ME, PART of the appeal of “eating out” is to check out the physical ambiance of a restaurant, while also having someone serve me.

Which are aspects that a food truck tries to eliminate from the process.

Although I don’t doubt my cousin probably thinks I’m being overly ridiculous, as do, I’m sure, the other many fans of food trucks, who probably think it’s cool when a particularly unique one decides to pull up and operate right by where they work.

A quickie lunch that, I’ll admit, is probably much more interesting than the servings of a Subway sandwich franchise (I don’t mean that as an insult, my first job ever was working a late shift at a Subway – and my own standard order on those occasions when I eat there is a “Spicy Italian” sandwich).

WHICH MAKES ME think this is a matter of age. There is a younger crowd, I don’t doubt, that will take this issue much more seriously than I.

For all I know, the day may come when the state Supreme Court will find some sort of case that gives them the opportunity to reverse themselves on Thursday’s ruling.

BAULER: Ain't ready for food trucks either?
That is, assuming the concept survives the amount of regulation they would now face – as the Institute of Justice has its own studies showing the number of food truck operators is now 40 percent smaller than it was some six years ago.

It could be that food trucks in Chicago are a similar concept to how legendary Alderman Paddy Bauler once described political "reform” – we just “ain’t ready for it” yet.


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