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Donut Truck Sues Evanston Over Food Truck Regulations

Beavers Coffee & Donuts alleges that the city of Evanston’s requirement that a food truck must be affiliated with a local restaurant is illegal.

One donut truck is pitting itself against the city of Evanston over the city’s requirement that food trucks must be operated by brick and mortar restaurants within city limits.

On Tuesday, Beavers Coffee & Donuts filed suit against the city of Evanston in Cook County Circuit Court’s chancery division.

“We’ve been to Evanston for a couple of events at Northwestern, and that’s how the whole situation arose,” owner Gabriel Wiesen told Patch. Most recently, he and co-owner Jim Nuccio had obtained a temporary permit to operate at Dillo Day. 

But when they wanted to return to Evanston to sell their specialty donuts and beverages again, they learned that a food truck had to be owned and operated by a local restaurant in order to obtain an official permit, good for one year.

Wiesen referred Patch to the business’ attorney, Jacob Huebert of Liberty Justice Center, for further questions. Huebert was not immediately available for comment. 

According to a post on the Liberty Justice Center website, the 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.

Food truck regulations are relatively new to the books in Evanston. Aldermen approved the city’s food truck ordinance less than two years ago, in September 2010. In addition to the provision that vendors must be affiliated with a local restaurant, the ordinance also prohibits food trucks from operating within 100 feet of any local restaurant.

Grant Farrar, attorney for the city of Evanston, issued a statement in response to the lawsuit. He noted that city staff spent months developing the city’s food truck ordinance, and said that the city council considered it “assiduously and thoughtfully” before it passed. 

“In their race to the courthouse steps, the plaintiffs refuse to acknowledge the city of Evanston’s Home Rule authority, nor are they acquainted with the legislative history on this matter,” he wrote in the statement. “We will aggressively defend the city’s ordinance in relation to this complaint.”

Dileep Gangolli August 08, 2012 at 11:29 AM
Good for them. How does a small startup operation that eventually wants to run a bricks and mortar restaurant get going? Food trucks seem to be a way to get into the game with a smaller investment. Perhaps they could be zoned to operate in a small central location and compete with each other rather than established restaurants that pay real estate taxes.
DL August 08, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Food trucks originating from municipalities other than take Evanston take our money and return nothing. Allowing food truck vendors orignating in Evanston makes more sense.
Laura Mills August 08, 2012 at 03:13 PM
The City shouldn't be trying to prevent competition between businesses. Food trucks and restaurants aren't in direct competition in any event. When I want to sit down and be served, I go to a restaurant. When I want a quick bite, I might buy it from a food truck, or a convenience store. I'm not more likely to eat in a restaurant just because food trucks have been kept off the streets. Let the public decide how it wants to spend its food dollars!
Lawrence J. McQuillan August 08, 2012 at 04:48 PM
To John C Thomson: That's like telling blacks in 1950s Mississippi: "If you don't want to be lynched, don't come to Mississippi." There are fundamental constitutional rights in this country. One is equal protection under the law. Local governments are not exempt from the constitution!
millie August 08, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Patch should have included a list of the current Food Trucks doing Business in Evanston
Frank August 09, 2012 at 03:20 AM
DL, Whole Foods (California), Jewel (Minnesota), Dominick's (California) and CVS (Rhode Island) take our money away to other states every day and we don't complain. So why is Evanston trying to regulate which food truck can sell here and which one can't? Chili's isn't from Evanston (Texas I believe) and neither is Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks. If they sell a good product, have a vendor's license and people want to buy from them, why would the city block them? I'm sure the restaurants in Evanston appreciate this move but it seems like the city is overstepping their authority on this one.
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) August 18, 2012 at 10:29 PM
James, here's the answer: Evanston has licensed just one food truck under its new permit system as a "Mobile Vehicle Food Vendor," Hummingbird Kitchen (affiliated with Union Pizzeria.) There are six food trucks licensed as "Mobile Vehicle Vendors" that are only permitted to sell pre-packaged food (such as ice cream) that is kept hot or cold in the truck.

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