Legalize Food Carts in Chicago

Did you know that sidewalk vendors are not allowed to sell any food other than raw, uncut produce or frozen desserts in Chicago? That means no fruit salad, no corn on the cob, no tamales. The city dishes out lots of “no.” (Vienna Beef sponsors Hot Dog U. in town, where they teach people to run carts selling Chicago-style hot dogs, but Chicago-style protectionism bans them in their own city.) Vendors live in fear of being caught for earning an honest living. Some have even been arrested for selling tamales to their neighbors in Little Village.

Chicago vendors demand their right to economic liberty

Email us for a free "Legalize Street Vending" sticker

Stop and talk to vendors you see on the sidewalk to tell them about our work and our website. If you find interested vendors, email us their contact information.

If you know of vendors or aspiring food entrepreneurs who have a great story to tell, please email us to let us know. We are looking for diverse, creative food cart entrepreneurs to paint an irresistible picture of Chicago with legal sidewalk vendors.

How you can get involved:
  • Sign our petition calling on City Council to stop treating street vendors like criminals, and to allow them to earn an honest living!
  • Spread the word about our ordinance to others in your community. Encourage them to sign our petition.
  • Show your support on social media. Share why you think a vibrant street food culture is important to our communities, post a photo of your favorite street food, or anything else you can think of. Don’t forget to use #mystreetsmyeats when showing your Twitter love!
  • Tell your alderman to support our ordinance. Don’t know your alderman? Click here.
  • “Like” our Facebook page to hear about updates and upcoming events.
  • If you’re a current or aspiring vendor, please join our Facebook group, and get in touch or (773)834-3129.

Food carts are wonderful businesses to welcome in Chicago. They are eco-friendly and affordable, both for the entrepreneur and the consumer. They are perfect for innovators trying out new business models and traditionalists keeping the heritage of their homelands and neighborhoods alive. Food carts activate public spaces and allow neighbors to mingle as they enjoy their favorite foods. They can bring a variety of healthy, locally prepared food into neighborhoods where there are not a lot of grocery stores. Plus, vendors are models of positive economic activity, who provide eyes on the street and make neighborhoods safer.

The IJ Clinic is building a coalition of Chicagoans to rally for tasty street food in Chicago. We have written up a proposed law to open Chicago up for vendors selling food that is prepared in advance in a licensed kitchen. Policymakers in City Hall are working with us to make this happen. We need your help to make sure it happens right.

Join the Street Vendors Justice Coalition. We will let you know about upcoming rallies and hearings.

Click here for more information on IJ's Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago.

Email Address
Please enter a valid email address

Institute for Justice
901 N. Glebe Road, Suite 900
Arlington, VA 22203
Tel 703.682.9320, Fax 703.682.9321
© 1997-2015