RIVER NORTH — The relocation of a popular food truck stand has turned out better than expected for owners of the mobile eateries, some of whom say they no longer want to move back to the old stand but noted they still plan to use a petition and customer support to fight the city's treatment of food trucks.
The stand was moved about a block away from its original spot at 828 N. Larrabee St., where trucks served the 600 W. Chicago Ave. building, to 729 N. Larrabee St.
The Illinois Food Truck Owners Association created an online petition last week, garnering more than 1,100 signatures by Wednesday. The petition calls for the reinstatement and expansion of the stand at 828 N. Larrabee St.
But after using the new spot, food truck owners are saying it isn't all bad. John Nguyen, owner of the Chicago Lunchbox truck, said Tuesday was his first time at the 729 N. Larrabee St. stand, but he has had a good experience so far.
Other food truck managers said their loyal customers were spreading word of the new stand's location.
"There've been a couple who say they like it much better" than the old stand, said Lee Strausberg, who manages the Husky Hog BBQ truck.
Kelly Bauer says that the new location may be good, but food truck vendors aren't entirely pleased:
Danny Herrera, Illinois Food Truck Owners Association president, said the new stand is working well because it has a grassy area where customers can stand and eat, and it isn't near brick-and-mortar restaurants that see food trucks as competition. He said he hopes the grassy area could be supplied with picnic tables
The area can also accommodate more food trucks. There were five food trucks parked near the stand Tuesday. Only two trucks could fit at the 828 N. Larrabee St. food stand, though two or three could also park in a private lot across the street from that stand.
In light of those positives, Herrera said the online petition's phrasing may be changed so it asks the city to provide more truck stands in general and to provide stands that can accommodate up to three trucks, as stands now can "barely" accommodate two trucks.
Herrera said he wants the trucks to stay at 729 N. Larrabee St.
Despite their acceptance of the spot, Nguyen said food truck owners will keep fighting the city with their petition based on "the principle." He said it isn't "that big of a deal" the stop was moved, but what bothers the food trucks is "just the way [the city] did it."
Strausberg said the stand at 828 N. Larrabee St. was removed without warning.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) and the city's Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Department, which regulates the food trucks, said the stand was moved due to traffic congestion in the area, but customers and food truck owners said the city was trying to appease a restaurant located near the old stand.
"I just hate that it takes one person to move a spot," Nguyen said. "As a group, I think we can do something really big."
The trucks are backed by some of the area's workers, some of whom have said they will stop buying food from the restaurant they say complained to police and got the food stand moved.
The restaurant owner declined to comment.
David Mahon, of Galewood, said he works at 600 W. Chicago Ave. and enjoyed having the food trucks nearby because he doesn't think there's enough diversity in the area's brick-and-mortar food offerings. He said customers from 600 W. Chicago Ave. will now have to cross an intersection that is "very difficult and not very pedestrian-friendly" to reach the truck stand.
"I really do hope they will reinstate at least the dedicated position for the two trucks," said Mahon, who signed the food truck petition.
Another customer, Alex Bradley of Little Village, said he stops by the area's food trucks about once every few weeks and thinks the city's ordinance — which says trucks cannot park within 200 feet of a restaurant unless they are in one of the city's designated food stands — "defeats the purpose" of food trucks.
Other customers have taken to Twitter to show their support.
The pro-food truck @600Wworkers Twitter handle represents people who work at 600 W. Chicago Ave. and are unhappy with the move.
"Let's make the Chicago food truck situation go viral & end the tyranny!" it tweeted Friday. The person who runs the Twitter handle, which had 43 followers Tuesday, did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Herrera said he will take the petition to the city at a future meeting as the food trucks fight to change the city's "tight regulations."
He said nearby restaurants aren't to blame for food truck woes.
"Really, the city is the one causing the problems," Herrera said, though he thinks the city is doing so unintentionally. "We just want to service the people in that building."
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