TARPON SPRINGS -- A Tarpon Springs food truck owner, with some legal help, is suing to overturn a partial ban on food trucks.
Elijah and Ashley Durham decided to launch their food truck, SOL (soul) Burger, last year after he lost his chef's job during the pandemic. He intended to serve food made from locally sourced ingredients. It happened just as state lawmakers used pre-emption legislation in 2020 to stop local communities from banning food trucks completely, or requiring licenses.
Tarpon Springs responded by allowing food trucks in certain areas of the city, such as along parts of U.S. 19. But the city continued to ban trucks within the downtown area, including the Sponge Docks. In response to restaurants, who wanted to have the right to operate food trucks, they allowed those businesses to open up trucks on their own property.
The Durhams were dinged with a $118 fine when they catered an event earlier this year. After attempting unsuccessfully to persuade the city commission to change its mind, they brought in the Institute for Justice, a law group that focuses on issues that include economic freedom and school choice. Durham says the city is "picking winners and losers" by not allowing his food truck to operate downtown.
The Institute's lawyers insist that the Tarpon Springs ordinance violates the Florida Constitution, which prohibits using government power to benefit a favored economic group at the expense of others. They say they have successfully challenged similar restrictions in Fort Pierce.
Photo: Institute for Justice