You can’t fight city hall, the adage goes. It’s true in the case of food-truck owners who challenged the city’s ordinance regulating their business.
The decision by the Illinois Supreme Court hits home for Oak Park, because the lead plaintiff in the case is Laura Pekarik, owner of Courageous Bakery & Café, 736 Lake St., and its Cupcakes for Courage food truck.
Pekarik and other food truck owners filed the lawsuit against the city in 2012, protesting its ordinance that prevents food trucks from operating within 200 feet of a brick-and-mortar business that also sells food. Vendors also objected to the provision requiring them to install GPS tracking devices to their vehicles.
The court noted in its ruling that the “200-foot rule is not unreasonable because it is a part of the regulatory scheme that seeks to balance the interests of food trucks with the city’s need to advance the stability and long-term economic growth of its neighborhoods.”
The court also supported the GPS rule, calling it “the best and most accurate means of reliably locating a food truck, which is particularly important and necessary in the event of a serious health issue.”
Pekarik called the ruling “heartbreaking” in a press release.
“Chicago admitted the its 200-foot rule enriched restauranteurs by chasing off their mobile competitors,” she said. “I hoped the Illinois Supreme Court would reject this kind of government-picks-the-winners-and-losers approach, where success turns not on how good your product is, but on who you know at city hall. Justice did not prevail today.”
Pekarik’s attorney Robert Frommer, of the Institute for Justice, called the decision a break from precedent that “protects the right to earn an honest living subject only to reasonable government regulation.”
“There is nothing reasonable about the government prohibiting you from operating near your competitors, or tracking you like a criminal out of fear you may sell delicious food to willing customers,” he said. “The Illinois Supreme Court’s failure to stand up to the powerful on behalf of ordinary folks, like Laura and other food truckers in the state, does a profound disservice to the constitutional rights of everyone in the state.”