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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Chicago Prevails in Food Truck Lawsuit, Validates Different Treatment for Brick-and-Mortar Restaurants

This week, the City of Chicago prevailed in a lawsuit challenging its food truck regulations, confirming that municipalities may regulate food trucks differently than traditional restaurants. LMP Services v. City of Chicago.  

In 2012, Chicago City Council passed a food truck ordinance, including requirements that food trucks must have a GPS system installed in their trucks for city monitoring, and that food trucks must stay more than 200 feet away from retail food establishment. Shortly, after the ordinance was enacted, the owner of the “Cupcakes for Courage” food truck, filed a lawsuit arguing that the 200-foot rule and the GPS requirement violate the due process and search and seizure provisions of the Illinois Constitution. The Court said the lawsuit “pits the interests of the traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant against the young rising pop star-the food truck.”

The food truck business claimed that the 200-foot rule violates its due process rights, specifically the right to pursue a trade or business free from arbitrary and irrational regulation. However, the Court found at least two rational bases for the City’s 200-foot rule: balancing the interests of both restaurants and food trucks, and managing sidewalk congestion. The Court distinguished a 1960 Illinois Supreme Court case, which struck down a 650-foot proximity limit between gas stations, finding that food trucks and restaurants are different types of businesses. Additionally, the Court found that the 200-foot rule is rationally related to the City's goal to reduce sidewalk congestion, although the rule does not solve all sources of pedestrian congestion.

Cupcakes for Courage also claimed that that the GPS requirement was an unlawful search and seizure, but the Court concluded that the requirement was not a search because it was not surreptitious, and only applied when the food truck is open for business or being serviced at a commissary. Even if the GPS requirement were a search, it would be reasonable because it satisfied the standards for warrantless searches of closely regulated businesses, such as food service. Finally, the Court found that the business, operating in public, did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

While the Cupcakes for Courage crew plans to appeal, this decision offers guidance to Illinois municipalities, and supports different sets of rules for mobile food vendors and traditional restaurants.

Authored by Daniel J. Bolin and Amanda Riggs, Ancel Glink


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