When Gabriel Wiesen and James Nuccio tried to bring their gourmet donut truck, Beavers Donuts, to Evanston in 2011, they ran up against a six-year-long ban on food trucks. But after a four-year lawsuit, Wiesen and Nuccio triumphantly rolled out Beavers Donuts on the streets of Evanston on June 13, and more food trucks have followed.
Before, food trucks without a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Evanston were banned from city limits. Evanston City Council set the food truck regulations in 2010, according to Evanston’s Assistant City Attorney Henry Ford. The city worried that Evanston restaurants would lose business due to the competition from food trucks.
But in 2012, Beavers Donuts sued the City of Evanston, arguing this limit was unfair. “This restriction serves no health or safety concern; rather, it exists only to protect established restaurants from competition,” they claimed in their initial complaint filed on Aug. 7, 2012.
“We decided to bring a lawsuit to Evanston on the basis that their provision that anyone who wanted to operate in Evanston needed to have a brick-and-mortar location was just blatant protectionism and served absolutely no purpose to protect the welfare or the common good of anyone else,” Wiesen says.
Then, on Sept. 11, 2012, the City of Evanston filed a motion to dismiss the Beavers Donuts complaint. Evanston made the case that, to put it simply, Beavers Donuts didn’t have a case and that their complaint was riddled with mistakes.
Beavers Donuts had never even tried to apply for a permit to operate in the City of Evanston, the dismissal stated, and therefore they couldn’t know whether or not they would be allowed to operate. Wiesen, however, says Beavers was indeed applying for a permit. He wanted to work alongside an Evanston brick-and-mortar location, which Beavers Donuts thought would be A-OK.
The City of Evanston also argued that the restriction was fair, based on home rule, which basically means that the city must show its loyalty to brick-and-mortar restaurants that are owned and operated within city limits.
But Wiesen wasn’t having this dismissal. Thus began a four-year back-and-forth case of Beavers Donuts filing a complaint, and the City of Evanston fighting right back.
“Food trucks don’t compete for the same customers. There’s nobody walking down their street on their way to a sit down restaurant that all the sudden wants to eat at a food truck. That is not a common or logical purchasing decision,” Wiesen said.
Evanston finally gave in this summer, making it much easier for food trucks without a brick-and-mortar location to get a permit to sell treats on the streets of Evanston.
Since school came back into session, students have spotted the Beavers Donuts truck frequenting Northwestern hotspots like on Clark Street outside Burger King. There is also a sandwich truck called Wicked Wiches that parks on Chicago Avenue near Allison Hall every weekday during lunch time.
“It’s going to be a good option for students to eat between classes,” says Medill sophomore Cindy Qian. “It’s a faster option, too. Students don’t have to go to downtown Evanston to get food other than what’s in dining halls.”
According to Wiesen, business has been picking up steadily since Beavers was officially licensed this summer. They’re working on assigning one food truck permanently to Evanston, so Northwestern students can continue to eat their feelings in the form of fresh, hot donuts every morning.
Isabella Jiao contributed reporting.