Tampa businesses breaking rule in city towing ordinance

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Since June, Tampa businesses selling alcohol have been required to post signs letting customers know their cars can't be towed between the hours of 9 p.m. and noon the next day. But the city isn't enforcing the law.

FOX 13 News couldn't find one business with the required signs. The signage requirement was added after the city discovered tow companies were ignoring the law that prevents cars being towed overnight from establishments that sell alcohol. Council members added the language about signs to make sure consumers knew they had options other than drunk driving.

FOX 13 News took the issue to Tampa City Council Chair Mike Suarez.

"When we last met and talked about this seven months ago the clear intent was to make sure that businesses put those signs up so that those patrons who were too drunk to drive understood that they could leave their car there and pick it up the next day," said Suarez.

Senior Assistant City Attorney Rebecca Kert told FOX 13 News, the sign portion of the ordinance is in effect and about 900 businesses are required to post the signs. Kert admitted, since the ordinance passed, seven months ago, the city hasn't come up with a plan to make sure businesses are posting the signs.

Many businesses required to post the towing signs says they didn't know they were breaking the law by not having them.

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Even Jeff Gigante, board member of the SoHo Business Alliance and Ciccio Restaurant Group partner, wasn't aware of the portion of the law.

"We weren't aware of the sign ordinance until you brought that up with me, but that's concerning. It's something I'm gonna look into and make sure at our next SBA meeting we discuss this with the group," said Gigante.

Gigante says most of the businesses in SoHo do not tow, but over the last year, some tow companies were found illegally towing cars.

Kert says Tampa Police are responsible for enforcing the towing ordinance and any business not posting signs warning that cars can't be towed overnight is comitting an arrestable offense.

According to Kert, the city is working to come up with an enforcement plan. Suarez and Gigante say they will work to make businesses aware of the signage portion of the ordinance.