ROGERS PARK — Recent college graduate Joseph Randol said a street cart would be a perfect way to launch the bagel company he's dreamed of owning.
"I've loved to cook as long as I can remember," said Randol, 24, of Rogers Park, who would call his business Chicago Bagel Wagon. A street cart "is a really good way to start small."
But there's one problem: If he tried to set out on his own, the business would be entirely illegal.
In Chicago, there's no way to obtain a license to sell food — besides whole fruit or prepackaged frozen desserts — on a street cart.
"I think they should be legal, just like they are legal in New York, L.A., and really any other city in America for that matter," Randol said.
Randol and other street-cart advocates gathered Wednesday at St. Jerome's Church in Rogers Park to organize a larger effort to legalize sidewalk vendors.
"We fight for people's right to earn an honest living," said Beth Beth Kregor, director of the University of Chicago's Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship, which has been championing the cause.
Kregor said street vendors could provide "healthy food at affordable prices in all sorts of different nooks and crannies in Chicago," but the city was "turning away" a great opportunity.
So Kregor and her team developed a city ordinance that would allow street cart vendors to sell food — such as roasted peanuts, crepes and hot dogs — as long as it's kept at proper temperatures and prepared in a certified commercial kitchen.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said earlier Wednesday he would need to evaluate the legislation before moving forward with support, but signaled a willingness to negotiate.
Kregor said she was shopping the ordinance to alderman, too, looking for a sponsor.
But would street-cart vendors detract from the business of Chicago's established restaurants?
No way, Kregor says — in fact, the carts would be "complementary."
"We hope that restaurants would see vendors as assets to their communities," she said.
She also said she hoped to avoid what happened to the water-downed ordinance legalizing food trucks, which prohibit them from serving food within 200 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Resident Rebecca Ray, a nutritionist, said she was excited about the food options the carts could bring "to people on the go."
"I'm so excited about it because I think it brings fresh fruits and vegetables to the street-level, where it's needed," she said.
Randol said if his aspiration to launch his business became a reality, he would "start as small as possible," serving morning commuters three days a week in Rogers Park.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: