TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (WFLA) – The owners of a Pinellas County food truck says the City of Tarpon Springs is driving away their customers.
The food truck owners, used to serving locally-sourced burgers, instead served a lawsuit to the city on Tuesday.
“Tarpon Springs government is not allowed to use their power to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. That choice belongs to consumers,” said Adam Griffin, an attorney with the Institute for Justice.
The food truck owners say an ordinance prohibits some food trucks inside city limits but allows others to continue operating. The couple that owns the truck called the move “unconstitutional.”
Ashley Durham, the co-owner of SOL Burger food truck calls the situation “defeating in a way I can’t describe.”
Ashley and her husband Elijah say the pandemic squelched his career in May, so they spent all summer creating a new life and business for their family, including their two young children.
SOL Burger food truck opened in September. Quickly after, they say, the city squashed that plan.
“They didn’t want us there and it was pretty defeating,” said Elijah Durham.
According to Justin Pearson, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, an ordinance went into effect in September banning independent food trucks from operating in 90% of the city. However, restaurants with food trucks could keep operating.
“Unfortunately, Tarpon Springs Government didn’t do it’s homework,” Pearson said.
Page 8, item 49 of the lawsuit filed Tuesday claims government officials publicly stated the purpose of the food truck ban is to protect other restaurants from competition. Pearson says they have already admitted the reason for the law is a reason that the Florida Supreme Court states is in violation of the constitution.
Other businesses say they’re negatively impacted by the ordinance too.
“It’s kind of a shock,” said Jason Leonard, co-owner of Brighter Days Brewing Company. “If people are buying food, they’re staying longer. If they’re staying longer, they’re buying more beers. So I’d have to imagine this is impacting us.”
As of Tuesday, a petition supporting all food trucks being allowed to operate in Tarpon Springs had more than 1,200 signatures.
8 On Your Side emailed and called the Tarpon Springs mayor, commissioners and public information officer to ask why the ordinance passed in September. We received an email back from the City of Tarpon Springs Research & Information Officer Judy Staley saying “the city would not have a comment on any pending litigation.”
We went to city hall to explain we don’t need to discuss litigation, but still want to know why the ordinance originally passed. Staley said they can’t comment.
Meanwhile, the Durhams’ lawyers say they’re suing the city for one dollar, just to establish who is right and wrong.