CLEARWATER, Fla.—The owners of a Florida food truck that challenged their city’s anti-competitive food truck law announced that they will be closing. SOL Burger, owned by husband-and-wife team Elijah and Ashley Durham, opened for business in the fall of 2020 and began operating at a brewery in their town of Tarpon Springs. After Tarpon Springs banned food trucks in downtown, the Durhams, represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ), launched a lawsuit in the spring of 2021.
“Elijah and I have made the difficult decision to close SOL Burger at this time,” said Ashley. “We want to thank the community that supported us from the first day we opened to the last. We hope that we’ve inspired you to chase your dreams regardless of what life may hand you.”
Soon after SOL Burger opened and had been invited to serve the hungry customers of a local brewery, the city moved to ban food trucks from downtown Tarpon Springs. But the new ban had a big exception: local restaurants would be able to operate food trucks on their property. All other food trucks were relegated to a sliver of land far from potential customers. Elijah and Ashley had to take SOL Burger outside Tarpon Springs to attempt to make ends meet even though private property owners wanted them to operate in their parking lots.
Soon after filing their lawsuit, Tarpon Springs modified its law to allow food trucks to operate from brewery parking lots but only if they branded themselves with the name of the host business. This substituted a law that was unconstitutionally anti-competitive for one that violated the First Amendment. Unfortunately, a Florida judge would not allow the Durhams to modify their legal claims and ruled for the city.
The Durhams appealed the decision to Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal. While the appeal was pending, the Durhams struggled to find a footing in other communities instead of serving their friends and neighbors in Tarpon Springs. Since their business is now closed, the appeal is moot and will be dismissed.
“The Tarpon Springs Board of Commissioners killed this small business for no good reason,” said IJ’s Florida Office Managing Attorney Justin Pearson. “Shame on them.”
The Institute for Justice has successfully challenged restrictions on the economic liberty of food trucks to operate across the nation through its National Street Vending Initiative. IJ has successfully challenged unconstitutional food-truck restrictions in Fort Pierce, Florida; Louisville, Kentucky; Carolina Beach, North Carolina; South Padre Island, Texas; and other cities across the U.S.