The fight between the city of Evanston and a food truck selling donuts and coffee continues to percolate this fall after Beavers Donuts sued the city in August, alleging that Evanston’s regulations on mobile food vendors are unconstitutional.
Lawyers for the city of Evanston recently filed a motion to dismiss the suit in Cook County Circuit Court’s chancery division.
At issue is the city’s requirement that food trucks must be operated by brick and mortar restaurants within city limits in order to obtain a mobile food vendor license. Evanston also limits food trucks from operating within a 100-foot radius of any local restaurant.
Beavers Donuts & Coffee owners Gabriel Wiesen and Jim Nuccio say they learned about the city’s regulations when they obtained a temporary permit to operate at Northwestern University’s Dillo Day this summer. Wanting to return to Evanston to sell their specialty donuts and beverages again, they found out they couldn’t obtain a year-long license without a local restaurant affiliation. Right now, Evanston’s Hummingbird Kitchen (operated in connection with Union Pizzeria) is the only food truck that currently holds such a license, according to a city spokesperson.
Filed by the Liberty Justice Center, the Beavers Donuts lawsuit argues that Evanston's food truck regulations treat local restaurant owners and food truck vendors from outside the city differently, violating the Illinois Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.
"That restriction doesn’t serve any legitimate health or safety purpose – Beavers Donuts fulfills every other licensing requirement – but serves only to protect one group of established business owners from creative competition," the website reads.
Lawyers for the city, however, point out that Beavers Donuts never actually attempted to obtain a mobile food vendor license.
The donut truck’s owners “cannot state that they were denied a license, as in fact they refused to even apply for one,” the lawsuit reads. “[Their] precipitous rush to the courthouse is premature.”
The city also argues that, as a home rule municipality, the city of Evanston has broad powers to enact local legislation “for the protection of the public health, safety, morals and welfare,” according to the Illinois Constitution.
Furthermore, the city argues that under Illinois Municipal Code, regulation of food trucks is within the city’s power to “regulate or prohibit the use of its streets for private gain” and “can be related to legitimate public safety concerns.”
“[Beavers Donuts’] purported right to drive their donut truck and sell coffee is not a fundamental right,” the city continues.
Wiesen told Patch Thursday that he and Nuccio intend to keep fighting the case. In the meantime, they’re selling their gourmet donuts around the city of Chicago, hitting the Loop, River North, Jefferson Park, Albany Park and Hyde Park.
“Some of our best customers happen to be on college campuses around Lincoln Park and DePaul area and at the University of Chicago,” Wiesen says.
Grant Farrar, corporation counsel for the city of Evanston, said he expected the court to hold a hearing date on the motion to dismiss in December.