Joe's Famous Hot Dogs calls Leave it to Layron after being booted by city from new location
Owner Joseph Laurie signed lease to set up food truck on U.S. 1 in Florida City
FLORIDA CITY, Fla. – Joe's Famous Hot Dogs is Joseph Laurie's dream come true.
"Started off with a hot dog cart. Did that for six months and then I bought the trailer," Laurie told Local 10 News.
Inside his 7-foot wide by 12-foot long fire engine red box trailer-turned-food truck, Laurie cooks up hot dogs, burgers and more. Earlier this spring, he got hit with a reality check.
"I've probably lost about a good 10 grand," he said.
The lease expired at the previous location Laurie used to park his food truck. He signed a new one with plans of moving to a new spot next to the Tropical Everglades Visitor Center and Fairway Inn on U.S. 1 in Florida City.
"It's more traffic, it's the hotel, it's better business," Laurie said.
The director of the visitor center and the owner of the hotel were ready to welcome Joe's to the block.
But, when he applied for a new license to operate at the new location, the application was denied.
According to an email from the city's Community Development Department, "The location [Laurie] proposed [was] in the landscape open space for the Visitor's Center."
The grassy area where Laurie was hoping to set up, according to the city, had to remain open. The email said the food truck also had to be on a paved surface.
"Please discuss options with the owner and send me a new location for consideration of approval. Note that it cannot be located in any required parking spaces," the email read.
Laurie and his new partners also inquired about putting gravel down to accommodate the truck.
In another message, the city's planning director advised, "Given that a gravel and/or paver foundation will be provided for the truck in existing green space, which will be damaged, this mobile vendor use has a permanent element which is contrary to the intent and requirements of the city's mobile vendor regulations. Mobile vendors must be parked on pavement for code and environmental reasons."
The director of the visitor center responded by saying a space for Joe's truck had been worked out off of the grass, onto the asphalt. He also claimed the same number of parking spots would be maintained, including disabled parking spots, hoping the issues would finally be resolved.
Florida City Code states, "Mobile vendors shall not operate in an area that is a: public right-of-way, vacant or unimproved lot, sidewalk, parking space, driveway, landscape median, easement, fire lane, or any location that blocks or impedes the ingress or egress of pedestrian or vehicular traffic."
The director of the visitor center sent another message, hoping to assure city officials the ordinance would not be violated.
"Went silent for two weeks, didn't give me a response regarding the reason why, then they come up with a moratorium," Laurie said, referring to the six-month moratorium issued by the city on mobile vendor applications.
Mayor Otis Wallace told the Leave it to Layron team the moratorium was recommended and issued to help the city address complaints from area businesses against other food trucks.
"It's motivated simply by conformance with the mobile vendor ordinance, or nonconformance," Florida City Planner Henry Iler said.
He said Laurie, the hotel director and visitor center director, could submit a revised site plan that accommodates Laurie's food truck.
"It would be best for him to wait until after we complete the revised regulations per the moratorium and then address the issue at that time," Iler said.
Those draft regulations would still have to be reviewed and approved by city leaders.
"I just want to do business, provide for my family," Laurie said.
He has also hired an attorney.
"I got a mortgage to pay, bills. I think it's just wrong," Laurie said.
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