Dear Chicago City Council,
We write you today to urge you to pass the street vendor ordinance.
Food vendors are hardworking businesspeople who bring fresh flavors and vibrant character to our neighborhoods. They should have the opportunity to prove they are safe and to operate with licenses.
Unlike almost every other major city, Chicago outlaws the sale of all prepared foods other than ice cream from non-motorized vehicles, and it treats existing street vendors like criminals. As a result, tamale vendors in neighborhoods like Little Village are ticketed repeatedly and some have even been arrested. Aspiring vendors in search of an affordable way to start a small business using their culinary skills cannot realize their dreams.
On May 20, 2015, Alderman Maldonado introduced an ordinance that allows vendors to sell a wide variety of foods from carts and bicycles if the food is prepared and packaged safely in a licensed kitchen. This ordinance would allow these small businesses to thrive while ensuring the health and safety of the food being served.
Once legal, these small businesses could feed Chicagoans on the go, patronize local groceries, suppliers, and farmers, and attract tourists looking to experience authentic Chicago cuisine. They might also grow to be big businesses. Portillo’s got its start in a trailer. Shake Shack, which began as a food cart in New York, filed for an IPO last year. Chicago’s current laws prevent the next Portillo’s or Shake Shack from ever getting started here.
Passing this ordinance will encourage job creation and innovation by green businesses, enhance the safety and vibrancy of our public spaces, cultivate entrepreneurs selling healthy, ready-to-eat foods in neighborhoods underserved by groceries and restaurants, and build Chicago’s reputation as a culinary capital. It will further the Chicago New Americans Plan by promoting entrepreneurship and tourism in immigrant neighborhoods. It will further A Recipe for Healthy Places and the Healthy Chicago Agenda by expanding the number and variety of healthy food retail options. It will further the Cultural Plan by expanding neighborhoods’ cultural assets, recognizing that culture can be integrated in street corners and public squares, and by streamlining zoning, licenses and approvals for street vendors. It will further Sustainable Chicago by assisting people and companies that are starting environmentally sustainable enterprises and jobs.
Please support this ordinance, which will allow vendors to claim their piece of the American Dream and contribute to the economic and cultural fabric of our city.
The Street Vendors Justice Coalition and the undersigned: