Chicago aldermen vote to overturn city’s ban on food carts

Chicago aldermen vote to overturn city’s ban on food carts

The city’s culinary entrepreneurs may now pursue an affordable path to a legal livelihood.

Food carts are legal in Chicago.

On Sept. 24, City Council registered a historic vote to establish a legal path to food-cart vending for Chicagoans.

For decades, Chicago’s food-cart vendors struggled to earn a living in a city that banned their trade. Now, hardworking food entrepreneurs can make an honest living without the fear of expensive fines and police harassment.

In welcoming these vendors, Chicago could see up to 6,400 new jobs and up to $8.5 million in new local sales-tax revenue. This is growth and income the city desperately needs, as City Council is staring down a massive budget deficit and Chicago’s population has flatlined – in 2013-2014, the city gained just 82 residents.

Above all else, Chicago’s vote to legalize food carts is a victory for the entrepreneur – street vending is one of the most affordable ways to enter the food industry.

The ability to start this kind of low-cost business is a big deal to Chicago’s street vendors, many of whom operate in low-income neighborhoods that lack access to sufficient food options. Customers in these areas in particular benefit from increased access to fresh food.

Food-cart legalization is especially important to Claudia Perez, a 62-year-old Mexican immigrant who has struggled for the right to pursue her food-cart business and support her family for years. Despite the city’s ban, Claudia’s business has remained popular and steady – at its peak, she had five carts operating throughout her neighborhood.

Food carts have long been part of the culture in Little Village, Pilsen, Rogers Park and many other Chicago neighborhoods. These communities rally around food-cart culture – kids pick up elotes for an after-school snack, walkers grab champurrado on cool mornings and anyone looking for a delicious lunch knows vendors’ tamales won’t disappoint. People drive from hundreds of miles away to get a taste of Chicago’s food-cart fare.

Chicagoans love food carts. Now, their city laws reflect this fact.

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