CITY HALL — Food-cart vendors would have their range of offerings greatly expanded and their license fees reduced by an ordinance submitted this week by Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th).
The ordinance, backed by the Street Vendors Justice Coalition and the University of Chicago's Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship, would allow mobile food vendors using bikes or carts to sell prepared food on the street. Current city law limits them to sell only frozen desserts and whole fruits and vegetables.
Technically, the amendment would alter the ordinance on mobile food vendors using a pushcart, handcart or bicycle from allowing them to sell "frozen desserts" to "prepared food." It also specifically allows coffee carts, previously prohibited, although New York City-style hot dog carts would remain taboo because of the requirement that food be prepared in advance in a licensed kitchen.
It would cut the license fee for a mobile food vendor from $275 to $100, and also allow produce stands in areas "underserved by grocery stores."
"We have written an ordinance that expands the frozen desserts vendor license so that vendors can sell a wide variety of foods from carts and bicycles," said Beth Kregor, director of the Clinic on Entrepreneurship. "We know that the City Council has periodically discussed licensure for street vendors, and it has proven to be a challenge," due to objections from stores and restaurants. "This ordinance is different than previous proposals," she added. "This ordinance would not license vendors to handle or prepare food outdoors. It would require them to consult with the health department and pass inspections before receiving a license."
Street and sidewalk food vendors have pushed for the expansion of what they can legally sell, and the concept has been embraced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who compared it to the debate over food trucks, saying, "We worked through the issues so that both could thrive."
Maldonado's ordinance amendment was assigned to the License Committee and should proceed before the June council meeting.
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