PUNTA GORDA, FL - Downtown Gatorz Bar & Grille is a popular restaurant in Punta Gorda. But the owner, Doug Harris tells Fox 4 that they are in debt to the city nearly $25,000 for violating the city's code ordinances. The ordinance stamps a $250 fine after the third offense for failing to pick up trash like cups, cans and straws.
"The penalties do not fit the infraction," Harris said. "I feel frustrated...I'm making an effort," he adds. But Harris says his efforts are being undone by the racoons that raid his trash.
"They actually stand here and with their paws, open it up like this and pull bags out," Harris said.
He claims he's being unfairly treated, which the city dismisses.
"The city regularly check all business' dumpsters, to ensure that they are being properly maintained, so this is not a case of singling any one out," said Teri Tubbs, a zoning official with the city of Punta Gorda. She adds, "All the City wants is for the property to be cleaned up and the dumpsters used properly and to be maintained."
Harris has even upped trash pick-up from two times a week to five times a week.
"Are we going to find everything all the time? No, we're not because how many hours in a day do we have to patrol trash? We're busy people," Harris said.
Harris will have another hearing with the city of Punta Gorda later this month.