Street food vendors may be among the largest contingents that Chicagoans interact with daily but still know little about.
On Wednesday, Gapers Block shared Chicago filmaker Carlos Martinez's recent interview with one of the city's many tamale vendors, Marciala, who described the business of selling street food as a daily struggle.
Similar to food truck vendors, "mobile food dispensers" selling items from carts and out of vehicles face restrictive city laws, stiff competition and ever-slimming profits.
"Seeing as there is a lot of competition right now, there is no real profit," Marciala said in Martinez's interview. "We barely break even."
Food truck operators are facing the same pinch. Since the city legalized on-board food prep in July, 109 vendors applied, according to the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. Per the Chicago Tribune, not a single food truck vendor has been licensed.
Gabriel Wiesen, of Midwest Food Trucks, a group which works with food trucks in cities nationwide, called Chicago's code "one of the most, if not the most, stringent in the country."
While many street food vendors are unlicensed, a rep from City's Hall's Business Assistance Center confirmed to HuffPost that such vendors are subject to regulations. The new MFD - Produce Stand license went into effect June 11, 2012, but some like Marciala and Beth Kregor of the University of Chicago Law School feel they share many of the new food truck ordinance's restrictions — and complications.
Marciala said in the interview, "When we go for permits, they don't give them to us. They tell us they give them out, but for some reason, not any for tamales."
The city maintains health and safety are at the heart of the strict regulations though entrepreneurial advocates think otherwise.
“These laws are not connected to health and safety,” said Kregor, director of the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Law School in a previous statement. “These rules not only limit what entrepreneurs can do, but they also limit customers’ access to affordable food.”