Food truck case could go to U.S. Supreme Court

Restaurateur with location in Oak Park leads fight against Chicago

August 20th, 2019 3:13 PM

Curb appeal: Laura Pekarik, owner of Courageous Bakery in Oak Park, is attempting taking her food-truck case against the city of Chicago all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. | TIMOTHY INKLEBARGER/Staff

By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

It's been a long road for Laura Pekarik, owner of Oak Park's Courageous Bakery, who has spent the last seven years fighting the city of Chicago over its food truck ordinance — and despite a Illinois Supreme Court ruling in favor of the city, she's not done yet.

Pekarik, who got her start in the business with a single food truck, aims to take her case to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to her lawyer Robert Frommer of the Institute of Justice.

In a telephone interview, Frommer said his organization is drafting a request for the highest court in the land to review the constitutional issues in the case.

"This goes beyond Laura and beyond the food industry in Chicago," he said. 

Frommer is still drafting the language in the request, but part of the lawsuit, if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to hear the arguments, will focus on GPS tracking equipment the city requires all food truck vendors to attach to their vehicles.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled against Pekarik earlier this year, stating that the GPS rule is "the best and most accurate means of reliably locating a food truck, which is particularly important and necessary in the event of a serious health issue."

The requirement violates food truck vendors' constitutional right under the Fourth Amendment to prevent unreasonable search and seizure, according to Frommer.

"It really goes to the kind of constitutional protections people have when they start a business and whether the government can run roughshod over them in service of a more powerful lobbying group," he added.  

Pekarik has long maintained that the ordinance serves the interests of brick-and-mortar shops over mobile ones.

She got a boost in her effort from syndicated Washington Post columnist George Will, who met with Pekarik and dedicated a column to her fight. 

"Given its surplus of violence and scarcity of resources, Chicago surely has bigger things to worry about than the menace, as the city sees it, of Laura Pekarik's cupcakes," Will recently wrote.

He likens the GPS rule to the government tracking vendors' movements "like convicted felons wearing ankle bracelets."

In a refrain repeated by Frommer, Will notes that the ordinance has reduced the number of food trucks on the streets by 40 percent.

Will is a longtime friend of the Institute of Justice, according to Frommer, who has represented several other food truck vendors in other states, but he said this one could go to the U.S. Supreme Court because most other cities have either lost their cases or are "faced with a challenge to get right by the law and change their ordinance."

He said the earliest the court could look at the case and decide whether to hear arguments is November.

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