On June 13, Evanston City Council unanimously voted to repeal a provision of the city’s food-truck ordinance that banned food trucks based outside of Evanston from operating in the city. The move came after the city spent nearly four years fighting a lawsuit challenging the restriction, which the Liberty Justice Center brought on behalf of the popular Chicago-based food truck Beavers Coffee & Donuts.
When the owners of Beavers Coffee & Donuts, Jim Nuccio and Gabriel Wiesen, started their business in 2011, they wanted to take their truck into Evanston, but the city government turned them away because city code prohibited all food trucks except those operated by the owners or agents of existing Evanston brick-and-mortar food establishments. In August 2012, the Liberty Justice Center filed a lawsuit on their behalf, challenging the restriction on the ground that it didn’t serve the public’s health, safety, or welfare, as the Illinois Constitution requires, but instead served only to protect Evanston restaurants from food-truck competition.
The Liberty Justice Center and the city government have been litigating the issue ever since. The city continued to defend its restriction even after the late Cook County Circuit Court Judge Jean Prendergast Rooney rejected the city’s motion to dismiss the constitutional challenge in March 2014.
During the litigation, Nuccio and Wiesen fortunately have been able to grow their business in Chicago, expanding to two trucks and a brick-and-mortar location in the French Market, which has been recognized as one of Chicago’s best donut shops.
Meanwhile, the people of Evanston have gone without any food-truck options at all, as out-of-town trucks haven’t be allowed to go there and Evanston restaurant owners apparently haven’t been interested in operating food trucks.
But thanks to the City Council’s change in policy, Evanston residents will start enjoying food-truck fare soon, as Beavers Coffee & Donuts and other trucks based outside Evanston start submitting their applications for licenses to operate there legally. In passing the repeal, the City Council suspended its usual rules, which require that an ordinance be read at two separate council meetings before receiving a vote, to enact the change immediately so food trucks can begin serving customers in Evanston before the summer is over.