Carbondale could lead on easing food truck regulations

Carbondale could lead on easing food truck regulations

Though some of Illinois’ larger municipalities such as Chicago and Evanston have been overly restrictive in regulating food trucks, the Carbondale City Council has debated loosening them for its city, soliciting mixed opinions.

The Carbondale City Council has a chance loosen regulations for food truck operators in the city, if enough council members come around to the idea.

The Southern reported after a May 8 Carbondale City Council meeting that council members were split on lifting certain restrictions on food truck operators, though they have yet to take a vote on the matter. Food truck operators in the city are allowed to operate on private property with the owner’s permission, as well as certain public properties. According to The Southern, council members were divided on whether to allow more locations where food trucks can legally operate, with Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry advising against loosening regulations, saying brick-and-mortar restaurants have enough “on their plate to deal with right now.”

Still, with support from a few councilmen, the possibility of easing regulations is in play and would be a boon for entrepreneurs and consumers alike. It would also be an encouraging contrast from the decisions some other large Illinois cities are making on food trucks.

In Chicago, food trucks have faced regulatory roadblocks, sharp fines and legal battles as a result of their attempts to do business in the city. A 2018 report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that among the cities with the highest density of food trucks, Chicago’s regulatory burden on food truck operators is among the most prohibitive. Chicago’s restrictions prohibit food trucks from operating within 200 feet of the front door to any physical space in which food is sold – which also means grocery stores and vending machines in addition to restaurants. That rule, along with restrictions on which specific streets are available for parking, means just 3 percent of Chicago’s downtown Loop is legally operable for food trucks.

Just north of Chicago, the city of Evanston had a provision on the books that banned any food truck that didn’t also operate a brick and mortar restaurant in the city. It took a legal challenge before the city eventually tore down that provision in 2016, but not before city officials had spent years turning away entrepreneurs wanting to thrive in their city.

Carbondale’s regulations are not as restrictive as those in Chicago or Evanston, but easing them would be a signal to entrepreneurs that the city is open for business and welcoming to the growing food truck culture – a choice not all municipalities have made. The Carbondale-Marion metro area lost over 1,600 residents to domestic migration from July 2016-July 2017, which caused the area’s overall population to shrink by 1,000 people. The city should be looking at ways to grow business opportunities to in turn grow its population.

Opting to be more like Chicago with its business rules would not be a wise choice for Carbondale.

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