THE LOOP — Chicagoans are expected to have more street dining options this summer thanks to a City Council decision to slash the cost of licenses required to sell everything from hot dogs and tamales to crepes and corn.
The changes, put forward by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as part of a larger overhaul of how the city licenses businesses, won City Council approval Wednesday and will take effect July 1.
Originally proposed by Ald. Robert Maldonado (26th), the cost of a two-year business license would drop to $100 from $350. In addition, food cart operators would no longer have to get an additional business license to use a shared kitchen, which comes with a $75 fee.
“I have heard from food cart vendors, many of whom are my constituents, that it is too expensive to do business in the city; so I wanted to do something to help,” Maldonado said.
Food carts were illegal in Chicago until the City Council moved in 2015 to legalize the estimated 1,500 vendors pushing food carts selling tamales, ice cream, corn and other treats and snacks on city streets.
However, only five carts applied for and received mobile food vending licenses, officials said.
The Illinois Policy Institute, which touts "free-market" solutions to political issues, said in a statement that the move was "a tremendous step forward for the burgeoning industry."
“By allowing food cart vendors to operate more freely, this new ordinance will help many of Chicago’s low-income entrepreneurs fulfill their dreams of owning a business,” said Chris Lentino, manager of Chicago outreach for the think tank.