Sept. 11, 2002
TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. -- City officials here have granted a local Pizza Hut operator two weeks to decide whether his operation will resume nighttime deliveries to the town's Union Academy neighborhood. Until then, the officials promised to delay talk of revoking the company's occupational license.
According the St. Petersburg Times, a November driver robbery led the operator to stop delivering to Union Academy after 9 p.m. But because most of the area's residents are black, elected officials and some residents claim the delivery cutback is based more on racism than safety.
On Sept. 10, Dallas-based Pizza Hut vice president Robert Millen faxed a letter to Tarpon Springs Mayor Frank DiDonato, asking for more time to consider the redlining policy. The city's commissioners were scheduled to discuss whether to take legal action against the company, but instead they agreed to wait.
"They've come a long way in a short time," said DiDonato, who has talked to Millen twice in the past week. "He's confident Tarpon Springs is a place where they can deliver throughout the city."
Pizza Hut executives are reviewing crime statistics from the area and interviewing employees, city officials and other interested citizens, Millen told DiDonato.
DiDonato said he has told any local pizza company serving the area to alert police any time a driver feels unsafe.
City Commissioner David Archie said Pizza Hut needs to make a decision.
"I don't mind giving them 10 days to get their act together," he said. But after 10 business days, he added, the city should make sure Pizza Hut not only follows through, but is not allowed to halt delivery arbitrarily in the future.
"I know sometimes bigger means bureaucracy, and sometimes being bigger just means you think you can do whatever you want to do," Archie said.
Pizza Hut doesn't want to limit its customer base, Millen said in his letter to DiDonato. "But as you know, our business objective of selling as many pizzas as possible cannot overwhelm the responsibilities we owe our drivers," he wrote. "Credible, objective concerns have surfaced about safe delivery service in certain portions of Tarpon Springs."
According to the Times, Union Academy has undergone a substantial revitalization in the past two years. More than 100 lots have been cleared and dozens of new homes are under construction.