We have reported previously on a lawsuit filed against the City of Chicago challenging its food truck ordinance that prohibits food trucks from being located within 200 feet of a “brick and mortar” restaurant. The trial and appellate courts ruled in favor of the City, upholding the ordinance. The case made its way to the Illinois Supreme Court, which issued its ruling this week also upholding Chicago’s food truck ordinance. LMP Services v. City of Chicago, 2019 IL 123123
The City of Chicago adopted its food truck ordinance in 2012. The ordinance imposed a number of restrictions on food trucks, including a prohibition on any food truck being located within 200 feet of “any principal customer entrance to a restaurant which is located on the street level.” The ordinance was subsequently amended to add exceptions for food trucks participating in the “mobile food vehicle stands program,” where the City reserved certain designated areas on City streets where food trucks are permitted to operate without being subject to the 200 foot rule. The amendment also added a “GPS requirement” that requires food trucks to install a permanent GPS device to send data to a service provider.
LMP, the owner of the “Cupcakes for Courage” food truck, filed a lawsuit to challenge the City’s food truck ordinance. Specifically, LMP claimed the 200 foot rule violates the equal protection and due process clauses because it favors traditional restaurants over food trucks. LMP also challenged the GPS requirement as an unreasonable search.
The trial court ruled in favor of the City, finding that it had a legitimate City interest in imposing the 200 foot rule. The court also rejected the challenge to the GPS requirement, finding that it was not unreasonable under the constitution. The appellate court agreed, also noting that the City has a legitimate interest in protecting traditional restaurants and the 200 foot restriction was not unreasonable.
The Illinois Supreme Court first acknowledged that both traditional restaurants and food trucks are important businesses to the City; however, the Court noted a few key differences, including the fact that the traditional restaurants pay property taxes and have a vested interest in the neighborhoods in which they are located. As a result, the City has a legitimate governmental interest in the stability of traditional restaurants and neighborhoods that justifies the differential treatment (i.e., the 200 foot rule).
The Court also addressed the challenge to the GPS requirement, finding that it did not constitute an unconstitutional “search.” The GPS data was not transmitted directly to the City, nor was it publicly accessible. Nor had the City actually requested location data from any of the food truck service providers. The Court noted that even if the GPS requirement was a “search”, it was not unreasonable because there is a government interest in knowing a food truck’s location, for purposes of regular inspections and in case of public health emergencies.
In short, the Illinois Supreme Court rejected LMP’s challenge to the food truck ordinance, and upheld the ruling in favor of the City.