TAMPA, Florida— Even on a rainy Wednesday, we found people lining up for lunch to order from the original Taco Bus location on East Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa.
“It’s a favorite of a lot of people,” said one customer.
Taco Bus helped fuel Tampa Bay’s food truck craze. But state health inspectors put the brakes on one of the local chain’s food trucks ordering an emergency closure after finding small flying insects and live roaches running around inside.
Back in December, 10Investigates told you about the foul smell coming from inside a Taco Bus-owned kitchen where an inspector found a dead rodent and close to 200 droppings. At the time, Taco Bus owner Renee Valenzuela told us the facility was no longer in use even through the state claimed employees were engaging in food preparation citing one employee for making food while not wearing a hair net.
Five months later, the company is facing yet another emergency closure. This time, inside one of their mobile food trucks.
We stopped by Wednesday afternoon trying to see if the problems had been cleaned up.
“Sir, this is a private office,” said an employee who slammed the door shut.
A manager at the Hillsborough location told us owner Renee Valenzuela would be willing to speak with us at the company’s corporate headquarters in an office park further down Hillsborough Avenue. But after driving all the way there, we hit another roadblock.
“He’s not available today,” said an employee in the office.
Instead, another employee provided us with a phone number for Elliott Ramsdell the head of Taco Bus’s PR firm. Ramsdell did not return our calls, so we returned to the Hillsborough Avenue location where finally we found the owner behind one of the trucks sitting on a picnic bench. He agreed to answer a few questions.
“The truck that was cited for violations was not in use when it got inspected,” said Valenzuela. “It was parked and it had just returned from service from one of the mechanical shops.”
But the health inspection report obtained by 10News suggests a different story with documentation of a truck stocked with food including refrigerated chicken, steak, beans, and cheese.
We asked why if the truck wasn’t in use, why it had refrigerated food inside.
“Well maybe the meat they were referring to wasn’t in the truck because I don’t think there was anything in the truck,” replied Valenzuela who soon became agitated, putting his hand over our camera and ending the interview.
It was unclear which bus was shut down by state inspectors but we did spot pest control on site spraying for bugs Wednesday and employees hosing down at least one of the trucks. We also spotted a stationary food truck operating with the back door wide open a violation because that could allow insects to get inside.
Upon double checking with the state, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation claims the food truck in question was stocked with food and was prepping for an upcoming catering event.