An attempt to protect Largo’s sewage from overflows is causing a major burden for a handful of business owners.
Michael Brandt and Anthony Jack have kept Gulf Coast Po’ Boys open for eight years now without any other employees.
“We’ve been able to stay open during the BP oil spill and the recession,” said Brandt.
Now they face a new challenge.
A city ordinance requires restaurant and cafeteria owners to install a 750 gallon grease trap, meant to stop grease from seeping into the sewage system, preventing overflows.
Brandt says they already have two and they also dump all of their grease into a container for a contractor to pick up and dispose of. He says they meet both county and state requirements.
However, now they’re being forced to install a new one underground, costing them more than $10,000 they don’t have in a building that they don’t even own.
“Economically we can’t do it,” he said.
Irvin Kety,Largo’s Environmental Services Director says the ordinance is necessary.
“The question is, do we want sewage running down the streets or not? ,” he said.
He says so far nine restaurants, including Brandt’s, aren’t in compliance.
The ordinance took effect last October and Kety says leaders gave owners a couple of years to prepare. So far no one has been cited.
However, Brandt says they were told by a city employee they and other businesses would be grand-fathered in, making them exempt from the requirements.
Kety says that’s not true.
“I feel like we’re kind of being back-doored at this point,” said Brandt.
He says he’ll continue to put pressure on leaders to reconsider the changes, however Kety says that likely won’t happen since more than half of the business owners in the area have already installed the required interceptors.
Commissioners will discuss the topic during a meeting this summer.
Brandt plans to be there, even considering moving to another location.
“We followed the rules,” he said, “we did what we’re supposed to do and now you’re changing the rules for us.”