Geneva council has mixed reaction to food truck idea

Updated 10/1/2013 12:06 AM

Don't look for trendy food trucks to park on the streets of Geneva anytime soon.

And if they are eventually allowed, it's likely they wouldn't feature cooked-to-order fare like that seen on TV shows such as "The Great Food Truck Race."


The city council Monday talked about the topic, as the city has received a few inquiries from would-be truck operators. Current city law doesn't allow food vendors, including ice cream trucks and food carts, on the public rights of way.

Aldermen agreed development department workers could continue to explore a way to allow food trucks. They also learned, however, that Kane County Health Department rules prohibit such trucks from cooking or otherwise preparing food on-site, except for trucks that are going to be stationed at special events. For "everyday" food trucks, the food must be stored and prepared at a permanent commissary, reported Mike Walker, a graduate-student intern with Geneva.

A recent city report about the downtown noted a lack of inexpensive, fast-served food options. The downtown has a deli near the train station, and a Subway on State Street.

Some aldermen worried that food trucks would hurt established restaurants. They were amenable, however, if a local restaurant wanted to operate a food truck in another part of town, to broaden its reach.

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Kane County regulates food service everywhere but in Elgin, which has its own health department. It considers food trucks to be a different thing than food trailers (such as the funnel-cake vendor at a carnival) and food carts (which have less-complex menus, such as hot dogs or sweet corn.)

Alderman Dean Kilburg said food trucks would "cheapen" downtown Geneva, and compared them to carpetbaggers, if they aren't owned by Geneva businesses.

But Alderman Dorothy Flanagan said their entrepreneurial spirit should be encouraged. And she said they would appeal to downtown workers looking for something to take back to their offices to eat, rather than having a sit-down lunch at a restaurant.

Mayor Kevin Burns said he isn't opposed to food trucks, and thought some of the competition could be handled by restricting their hours or locations. He said one might be popular, for example, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. in the downtown, after pubs have closed their kitchens for the night. But Alderman Craig Maladra said he thinks the truck owners would prefer to serve at lunchtime, and logistics would be difficult. "As a consumer, I think it would be cool ... I don't know where we are going to stack two or three Winnebagos" on Third Street on a Saturday, he said.

"Every dollar that goes in to those trucks is a dollar less going in to our merchants' pockets," said Alderman Tom Simonian. "We're not downtown Chicago" with big crowds.

He said he would support it if a local merchant wanted to run a food truck.

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