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Food truck owners suing City of Tarpon Springs over restrictions

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Posted at 4:52 PM, May 18, 2021

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — Elijah Durham was laid off from his chef job during the pandemic, so he and his wife Ashley decided to open up a food truck.

They wanted to operate in their hometown of Tarpon Springs.

“We picked that town because it was a smaller town. We wanted to raise our kids there," he said.

State lawmakers had just passed a bill preventing local governments from banning food trucks.

The plan was to set up the SOL Burger truck 3-4 days a week at Brighter Days brewery.

“We thought that creating a food truck where we could get locally sourced meat, bread, produce. And do something that most people aren’t doing. It’s not just opening a food truck. It’s opening the best food truck," Elijah said.

But shortly after they opened, the city commission passed an ordinance limiting food trucks from operating in most of the city, even on private property like the brewery.

Only food trucks owned by restaurants are exempt.

The Durhams have been fighting back and now, with the help of the non-profit Institute for Justice, they are taking Tarpon Springs to court.

“We do not believe that the city has the right to restrict the success of one business in exchange of the benefit of another. This lawsuit is the result of many, many multiple attempts to have the city help us find common ground and a better working relationship," said Ashley.

The Durhams are still in business but have to leave Tarpon Springs which they say means more expenses.

A spokesperson for the City of Tarpon Springs said they were unaware of the lawsuit and wouldn’t comment. However, they did send us a copy of the ordinance.

“Other cities recognize that food trucks help out downtown areas including the brick and motor restaurants. Unfortunately, the Tarpon Springs government didn’t do its homework," said Institute for Justice attorney Justin Pearson.

ABC Action News also reached out to the mayor and city commission, but we have yet to hear back.

The Institute for Justice says they’ve successfully challenged food truck restrictions in other cities, including Fort Pierce.