Naperville sticks with two downtown food carts

  • Joe Hornbaker of Joey's Red Hots is one of two food vendors given a two-year permit to set up a cart in downtown Naperville. The city council on Tuesday denied to increase the number of permits to three to include an Italian ice cart.

      Joe Hornbaker of Joey's Red Hots is one of two food vendors given a two-year permit to set up a cart in downtown Naperville. The city council on Tuesday denied to increase the number of permits to three to include an Italian ice cart. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer August 2013

 
 
Updated 1/21/2015 5:26 AM

The same two food carts that sold hot dogs and ribs on warm summer days and nights last year in downtown Naperville will be back again this year -- without any new company.

The city council denied a request to issue three mobile food vendor permits instead of the maximum of two the council set in December 2013.

 

The third permit could have went to an Italian ice vendor called Little Jimmy's, but the council approved only permits for previous vendors John's Rib House and Joey's Red Hots.

John's Rib House will be permitted to set up a cart outside the central parking facility on Chicago Avenue, while Joey's Red Hots can post a cart near the Riverwalk at Main Street and Chicago Avenue.

These two locations were specified more than a year ago when the council updated the mobile food vendor program to compromise between those who think the vendors add to the ambience of the area and business operators who are concerned about a level playing field.

"I've been a defender of the street vendors all along," council member Joseph McElroy said. "But I think it's a good idea in this case to keep it with the two we had."

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Council members voted 6-2 not to allow the third food cart, mainly citing concerns from the downtown business community that there already are too many frozen treat sellers in downtown Naperville. Allowing an Italian ice vendor to come in without paying rent would be an unfair advantage, several on the council said.

"In some ways it's an unfair competition," council member Steve Chirico said. "I know that it adds to the excitement and the feel for the downtown area and that's fine. But the spirit of the agreement was it wouldn't be something in direct competition."

Council member Doug Krause and Mayor George Pradel voted against the move to deny the Italian ice vendor's permit request.

"It adds to the ambience of the downtown to have these carts that sell to the public," Pradel said. "I think it would be good for Naperville."

While downtown merchants are faced with high rent, Krause said a single Italian ice cart wouldn't steal enough of any ice cream shop's sales to force it out of business.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Let's try it and see how it works because this is not going to make a difference to an individual store or merchant," Krause said.

Plus, he said, downtown food vendors are required, just as brick-and-mortar restaurants are, to pay a food and beverage tax that is put into a fund for special events and cultural amenities.

The permits approved for John's Rib House and Joey's Red Hots cost $275 and last two years.

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