Tarpon Springs Food Truck Owners Sue Over City Ordinance That Protects Brick-And-Mortar Restaurants

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. – The owners of a food truck business are suing a Tampa Bay-area city over its draconian restaurant regulations that unfairly protected sit-down eateries – by allowing them to operate food trucks.

According to the Institute for Justice, which represents the couple, Elijah and Ashley Durham of Tarpon Springs, Florida, bought a food truck when the pandemic cost Elijah his job as a chef.

The Durhams bought a food truck, calling it SOL Burger. They began operating on downtown Tarpon Springs.

As the IJ notes, “It was good timing, since Florida had just prohibited cities from having blanket bans against food trucks, like the one in Tarpon Springs.” Gov. Ron DeSantis signed that bill in June 2020. The measure also restricted local governments from requiring additional licensing mandates for food trucks.

But Tarpon Springs found a workaround.

The city adopted a local law that said the only food trucks that could operate were those owned by restaurants on their own property. Independent operators, like the Durhams, were relegated to a “sliver” of land on the outskirts of town.

“Elijah and Ashley had to take SOL Burger outside Tarpon Springs to make ends meet even though private property owners wanted them to operate in their parking lots,” the IJ noted.

“Tarpon Springs’ ordinance may comply with Florida’s food truck law, but it violates the Florida Constitution, which prohibits using government power to benefit a favored economic group at the expense of others,” the IJ said in a press release.

IJ’s managing attorney in Florida, Justin Pearson, said in a statement, “Not only is Tarpon Springs’ protectionism unconstitutional, but it misunderstands the relationship between food trucks and restaurants.”

“Cities in other parts of the state have seen that food trucks increase foot traffic and help downtown areas, including restaurants, but Tarpon Springs’ government failed to do its homework.”

In a statement, IJ lawyer Adam Griffin added, “The government isn’t allowed to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. That choice is up to consumers.”

“Tarpon Springs has said that only the politically connected insiders can have food trucks in downtown Tarpon Springs,” Griffin added. “That’s not just wrong; it’s unconstitutional. Elijah and Ashley are suing not just for themselves but to protect everyone’s rights.”

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