DOWNTOWN — Food trucks are pulling up to the Daley Center for their day in court.
A hearing is set for 10 a.m. Thursday in the courtroom of Cook County Circuit Court Judge Peter Flynn on the suit fighting the city's 200-foot restriction against the trucks parking near established restaurants.
The suit also argues against the requirement that food trucks be equipped with Global Positioning System equipment allowing the city to track their whereabouts.
"We're looking forward to our day in court," said Kristin Casper, fiancee of Schnitzel King owner Greg Burke, who filed the suit in November along with Cupcakes for Courage owner Laura Pekarik. The case is being handled by Robert Frommer, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, a Virginia-based agency that has taken a nationwide interest in fighting for food trucks.
The institute has even posted a playful "Game of Thrones" parody on the issues in Chicago.
Yet, the suit couldn't be more serious to food-truck owners and their fans. It accuses the city of fashioning "burdensome and anti-competitive laws" that restrain trade and protect established restaurants from competition by the trucks. It specifically cites comments made by Ald. John Arena (45th) before the new ordinance passed last July.
"I think restraint of trade is what this ordinance serves up," Arena is quoted as saying. "A brick-and-mortar restaurant lobby got ahold of it, and it was stuffed with protectionism and baked in an oven of paranoia."
Arena cast the only "no" vote against 45 in favor. The ordinance's lead sponsor in the City Council was Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), owner of the Ann Sather restaurants.
The suit also points to how the new ordinance quadrupled the fines for a food truck parking within 200 feet of an established restaurant, from $250-$500 to no less than $1,000 and no more than $2,000. Arena pointed out at the time that the fine for a restaurant that committed a serious health violation was only $250.
"This restriction does not address any public health or safety concerns," the suit says. "Instead, it exists simply to protect brick-and-mortar businesses from competition."
The city has filed a motion to dismiss the suit.
"Hopefully, the judge will hear the arguments and allow our case to continue forward," Casper said. It's the first formal hearing in the case.
The Schnitzel King recently opened its own brick-and-mortar restaurant in Bridgeport at 308 W. 33rd St., but Casper said they would continue operating their food-truck, adding, "Restaurants and food trucks can coexist."