The Thurston County Board of Health approved the permitting option that allows the booth-setup food establishments to operate year-round at multiple venues on Tuesday, March 14.
At the BOH meeting, Environmental Health Senior Specialist Sammy Berg said that the proposed annual permit with variance allows people to carry out a routine food operation as they work to get funds or capital to move towards a mainstream food truck or actual brick-and-mortar business.
"We will treat them like a food truck if they want to do a routine food operation and use variance to allow for not having the food truck part of it and having the other components that go with it. It is kind of a deconstructed truck," Berg explained to the board.
He said the operators are currently in the temporary pilot permit and are looking for a transition process that will allow them to continue operating as they improve their process and meet the new standards.
As per the state code, Berg said those in the pilot temporary permit program only allow the vendors to operate three times a week.
BOH member and county commissioner Carolina Mejia inquired about the application fee and permit. "Why is that so high?"
Under the proposed annual permit with variance, the application fee is $750, and the permit fee is $610.
"Our normal application fee is $250, which basically accounts for one hour of review time. On average, a mobile unit takes about three hours [to review] – looking at the equipment, their process, their commissary, and all the pieces that would make an effective mobile work," Berg explained.
He added that they would charge the applicant upfront for the three hours. "If unused [hours], it will roll towards the permit cost."
Under the proposed annual permit with variance, the upfront cost is around $5,000 for startup equipment and permits.
Berg said the set-up costs far less than a food truck startup, which has an upfront cost from $75,000 to $100,000.
Berg added among the proposed requirements:
The BOH directed the Environmental Health staff to develop an approval pathway to allow food vendors to operate year-round at multiple locations.
The pilot program was established in 2022, allowing temporary food establishments to operate year-round at multiple venues. Berg said these establishments were inspected frequently.
Through this program, Berg said they developed an alternative that will meet the needs of food vendors while complying with public health standards.
"This is a way to balance business opportunity and meet those needs while still protecting public health, protecting all the other consumers that expect us to keep them safe and keep their food buying options open," Berg added.
Berg said the next step is to develop a policy for the review process.
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What a goofy, convoluted system, getting in the way of people earning a living.
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