Economic Liberty
Matt Powers · February 22, 2017

Shelby County Code Enforcement is putting Keith Marshall, owner-manager of Perfection Carwash and Detail, through the wringer.  Marshall operates a mobile car wash service in Memphis in the parking lot of a Hibachi Grill on Riverdale Road and in a lot on Winchester Road. Despite obtaining permission from the Hibachi Grill and a business license to operate in the parking lot, he has been issued nearly a dozen citations and two court orders. Now, after complying with Shelby County’s many other demands,  Code Enforcement wants Marshall to get a special permission slip to operate his business.

Five years ago Marshall began washing cars outside the Hibachi Grill. Soon enough, he was asked by Memphis Police if he had permission to work there. He responded with signed letter from the restaurant granting him permission to operate, which he showed to FOX13. Next, Marshall was informed that he needed a business license, so he maneuvered through the County bureaucracy and obtained one. A couple of months later, code enforcement again visited his business, this time saying that he needed a draining system to prevent the waste water from entering the Memphis sewers. “I bought this machine that cost a little over $15,000 to collect all the water. 100 percent of the water and everything we use is earth friendly,” Marshall said. As he continued to bring his business into compliance with the County’s demands, Marshall was issued court orders twice to cease operating and accumulated nearly a dozen citations, just for washing cars in a parking lot.

After all this, a recent statement issued by Code Enforcement Administrator Allen Medlock says that Marshall now needs to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy and a Special Use Permit which would stipulate what is needed to operate a car wash. That statement also claimed that Marshall could be taken into custody if he does not obtain them.

Why did it take five years, nearly a dozen citations and two court orders before Marshall was told he needed a special use permit and certificate of occupancy to run his car washing business? He said the city could do a better job educating business owners about permits and licenses. A one-stop shop for licensing could have expedited Marshall’s ordeal with Memphis and prevented the accumulation of citations. The Institute for Justice report, Open for Business, recommends cities streamline business licensing and establish one-stop shopping for required licenses.