Mayor Emanuel stood in our place in April to announce the dramatic reduction of business licenses in Chicago– from 116 to 49, to cut the red tape. Today, City Council will see a Food Truck Ordinance introduced that will allow for cooking on food trucks. Sounds like good stuff is happening, right? mmmm…..

When biz licenses were reduced dramatically, food business licenses were not.  When the Shared Kitchen Ordinance went into effect last September, it created four new license types.  This new Food Truck Ordinance will create two more. When food carts get legal, they’ll have a new type of license. Folks, please–put the pipe down.

Six food businesses that all make and sell the same chocolate cookie direct to the public in Chicago have six sets of licensing requirements. No kidding. Call Biz Affairs if you want the mind-numbing answer:

1. Brick and Mortar Cookie Shop
2. Online Cookie Shop
3. Cookie @ Maxwell Street Market
4. Cookie Baked on Truck
5. Cookie Sold on Truck, baked elsewhere
6. Cookies at Farmer’s Market
7. Cookies at Special Events

City Officials defend these actions by wrapping themselves in the flag of public safety.  We must prevent food borne illness, they say. But prevention does not happen with more license types.  It happens with food safety training and excellent inspectors. Salmonella does not stop at the door and ask the business type. Principles of time & temperature, personal hygiene, and cross contamination are the same for any food business. 

You can have one food license for all these types of businesses (and all those in the future) and handle food safety issues in the Health Dept. Rules and Regs, where they belong. Cut licensing staff and put that money into more(and excellent) health inspectors. Then we’re all safer.

It’s better for the economy, as businesses would get licensed faster. Better for Food Safety, as businesses spend more time spent discussing food safety with the Health Dept., and less time sitting in front of a paper pusher in Biz Affairs.  Businesses get open faster, and we get a smaller government as the cherry on the sundae.   

Why can’t we do that? We can, we just have to fix the Food Safety Division of Chicago’s Health Dept.  But that’s another blog post.

Today, just to this: email or call your Alderman and push for the removal of GPS tracking requirements on Food Trucks. It’s probably illegal, definitely expensive, and low on public safety benefit.  And mention that you thought we were supposed to be reducing the number of biz licenses in Chicago.

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