Fans of the 19th century folk ballad and noted earworm “Turkey in the Straw” may get more chances to hum along with the tune next summer, if Riverside elected officials decide to repeal a village-wide ban on ice cream trucks.
Whether or not that change will actually be made to the village’s code isn’t certain, but elected officials on July 16 gave the go ahead for village staff to draft possible regulations that would once again allow the trucks to roam Riverside.
Village President Ben Sells said he had seen ordinances from other municipalities that lay out fairly restrictive regulations on times and places when and where the trucks can operate, decibel levels, rules on when music/bells can or can’t play in order to protect the village from creating a nuisance.
“We’re not inventing the wheel here,” Sells said. “There are ordinances out there.”
The ice cream truck ban has been in effect in Riverside since 2004, when the village board amended its code related to food trucks.
The code created permitting rules for “mobile food units” but also “strictly prohibited” ice cream trucks, unless such truck obtained a special permit to operate during special events, in which case they wouldn’t be traveling through the village selling ice cream.
Riverside’s action in 2004 seems to have been part of a wave of ice cream truck bans that spread through the Chicago suburbs in the late 1990s and early 2000s in response to incidents in which children had been injured or killed running out into the street to flag down a truck.
In April 2000, the Chicago Tribune reported, a Northlake 4 year old was killed when he crawled under an ice cream truck to get a treat he’d dropped on the ground.
“I have some recollections of complaints received by the village about these ice trucks cruising the neighborhood and attracting small children into the street causing a safety issue,” said Harold J. Wiaduck Jr., who was village president when Riverside’s village board passed the ice cream truck ban.
While trustees said they were open to discussing overturning the ban, they still had a few concerns, particularly during the present health crisis where the goal is to limit people gathering together closely.
Trustee Alex Gallegos said when he was a child, an ice cream truck would show up at the Riverside Swim Club like clockwork, whenever an adult swim cleared the pool of kids.
“Twenty, 30 kids would rush over there,” Gallegos said. “You have that group of kids so closely together there during a pandemic, there could be a concern.”
Sells said that while the village could make sure safety issues were handled in the ordinance or through the permitting process, the ban would remain in effect this year and would only take effect in 2021, if trustees decide to change the law.
Other trustees were leery of ice cream trucks potentially taking business away from brick-and-mortar businesses like Empanadus and Aunt Diana’s.
“We don’t want ice cream trucks or any other kind of food truck coming in, taking business away from the businesses we have in Riverside,” said Trustee Edward Hannon. “If someone wanted to open up an ice cream stand like we used to have, a sundries stand, I would hate to think that we have an ice cream truck come through every day and impair that from happening.”
Trustees Cristin Evans and Doug Pollock also said they were interested in seeing regulations that might allow ice cream trucks back on village streets, as did Trustee Patricia Collins, participating on July 16 in her first meeting as a trustee since 2017.