Sweet Pea Market and Cafe has more seating capacity than state regulations allow for a food establishment with only one bathroom. Its owners are working through the compliance process with county officials.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Sweet Pea Market and Cafe has more seating capacity than state regulations allow for a food establishment with only one bathroom. Its owners are working through the compliance process with county officials.

Steamboat's Sweet Pea working through compliance process

Cafe requires 2nd restroom to meet state regulation

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Sweet Pea Market and Cafe is at 729 Yampa St. in downtown Steamboat Springs. Sweet Pea is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. Call 970-879-1221 or visithttp://sweetpeama...> http://sweetpeama...

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Katie Noble sweeps the back seating area Thursday at Sweet Pea Market and Cafe.

— The popular Sweet Pea Market and Cafe appears to be doing brisk business with its fresh foods, new menu items and an expanded deck this summer — but customers might want to use the bathroom before stopping by.

The downtown Steamboat Springs business, at 729 Yampa St. along the Yampa River, currently has more customer seating than state regulations allow for a food establishment with only one bathroom. Sweet Pea owners Jonathon Hieb and Katherine Zambrana are working through the compliance process with county officials — and Hieb stressed that it’s been a positive collaborative effort — but they likely will delay installation of a second bathroom until after the busy summer season, choosing instead to pay a fine of as much as $1,000.

Mike Zopf, director of the Routt County Environmental Health Department, said department staff is inspecting Sweet Pea every 10 days to document the continued noncompliance, which causes the financial penalty to increase with time. Zopf said his department, following state protocol, has the authority to assess three fines in a year, meaning Sweet Pea could pay as much as $3,000.

But the situation doesn’t appear likely to progress that far. Hieb said he intends to comply with the state regulation — after the summer.

“Is it worth me staying open with more seats and paying the fine, or is it worth me cutting back and complying until I get all this construction done?” Hieb asked rhetorically Friday. “And that’s just a matter of crunching the numbers.”

Summer months are crucial moneymakers for many Steamboat businesses.

“We know how short the summers are here,” Hieb said. “It’s primetime, especially for Sweet Pea.”

Hieb said he is working with an architect and Carl Dunham of the Routt County Regional Building Department on plans for the new bathroom. Dunham was out of the office and could not be reached for this story.

Communication breakdown

The market and cafe underwent significant renovation before opening for the summer. Heather Savalox, county environmental health specialist, said Hieb’s April application for a plan review included 15 seats in a “grab-and-go” format — Sweet Pea’s seating in front of the business, along Yampa Street.

“They were approved for that specific application May 25,” Savalox said.

Fifteen seats is the state’s limit for a food establishment with one bathroom.

Savalox said the application she received “did not indicate anything like” Sweet Pea’s expanded deck and seating area along the river.

“Then I heard that there was more seating over there,” Savalox said. She went to check it out June 22 and saw the noncompliance. Sweet Pea has more than 10 multiseat tables on its deck.

Hieb acknowledged that timeline but said the situation was simply “a communication breakdown” after plans changed for Sweet Pea’s renovations.

“When we originally were going to do this, we thought it was going to be a small grab-and-go type … and when we got going, we realized it wasn’t,” he said. “I am trying to take steps to make this right … and (county officials) are working with me.”

Rumors have been circulating in Steamboat about Sweet Pea having to temporarily close or reduce staff amid heavy-handed tactics from officials. Hieb praised the collaboration of building and environmental health staff and emphasized that it’s been a positive compliance process. He said Sweet Pea has 22 employees between the market and cafe.

“The biggest stressor for me … was these employees,” he said. “The last thing you want to do is start laying people off.”

Zopf said inspectors in his department have a relationship with more than 200 food establishments in Routt County. He noted that Sunpie’s Bistro, next door to Sweet Pea, previously had to add a second bathroom because of its seating capacity.

“We want nothing more than for every establishment and operator to be successful,” Zopf said. “But everybody’s got to play by the rules.”

Comments

addlip2U 4 years, 5 months ago

So glad to see that Sunpies is a hopping place. But do they have more than one restroom?

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OnTheBusGus 4 years, 5 months ago

Sunpies has more than one restroom AND port-a-potties. They're on it!

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stmbtgrl 4 years, 5 months ago

That is just great to know that in Steamboat business can operate illegally until the busy season is over! I know a small business saving for their liquor license, I will just let them know to start serving liquor now while it is the busy season, and worry about their license later. Give me a break. it is not ok for this to happen. I am a huge fan of sweet pea and shop there often, but I also know people that are loosing money because they are doing the right thing. During the construction of the deck and kitchen I never saw a yellow building sign. How did this ever get through the planning process? Sweet pea must have friends in the Good Ol Boy network.

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nodui 4 years, 5 months ago

Good point stmbtgrl.....After living in the boat for 39 years i can tell you that that town has rules of convienence. Its a rule for some but not for others. That town has turned into an over priced and over built disaster. The 70s-90s in Steamboat were awsome!!! I miss the summers and a few friends, but that is it. All of the so called "Locals" who have been there for 5-10 years and have brought big town ideas to Steamboat have helped to ruin a once great lil town. All of the true locals have left....except for a few first generation familys.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 5 months ago

So people are asking for government stupidity? Sweetpea could simply remove chairs and tables from the deck and tell people that the City says no one can sit in a chair on the deck because they don't have a second bathroom. Or maybe the City could force them to close the deck and require that customers at the grab n go eat their food any place as long as it is not on Sweetpea's property.

The second bathroom is a reasonable rule that is designed to make sure businesses have enough bathrooms so that no one is publicly urinating due to lack of bathrooms. So the situation at Sweetpea is not causing the problems the rule is meant to address, so there is not an immediate public health issue. Thus, there is no reason to shut them down.

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stmbtgrl 4 years, 5 months ago

Scott, Sweet pea could remove chairs and the City COULD enforce the rules, but why aren't they is the question. My question is, if they went through the proper procedure of getting permits and tap fees and health department approvals.. why are they in this mess? When you get a permit for a deck or a kitchen or a commercial expansion of any kind, the building department is pretty specific on asking you what you will be doing with the property. It all sounds shady to me. But oh well, the people doing the right thing will continue to be punished and pay the fees that others do not.

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greenwash 4 years, 5 months ago

Drive around town and have a look half the remodels dont have permits.

And what does the building dept do during these slow times?

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seeuski 4 years, 5 months ago

Sweat Pea is putting out some of the best food in Steamboat for very reasonable prices and they are being attacked by some for not having two places to pea? The owner said he will pay the fines and remodel after the busy season, why do people like stmbtgrl want them shut down? Is that what this political environment is producing these days? Shut down private business and let Government take charge?

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 5 months ago

I don't think all decks have to go through the building dept. Since it would have been no great challenge to add the second bathroom when they were building the deck, presumably they didn't realize that grab n go food sold over the counter would be affected by where the customers actually ate the food.

Unless the current problem is causing their customers to go to neighboring businesses to use their bathrooms or causing people to publicly urinate due to lack of Sweerpea bathrooms, I don't see the harm of them fixing it this fall and paying whatever fines.

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stmbtgrl 4 years, 5 months ago

It is not just a restroom, it is the fact that sweet pea did not go through the proper process and they are being allowed to operate because Cari likes them. All commercial decks require a building permit, not to mention the Kitchen... tapping in to water and sewer lines without a permit is a big deal. ps. They DO NOT have a permit as I was told by someone at the City today. Building a commercial kitchen without a permit is a problem, being allowed to operate with out proper permits is just wrong. If the Ghost Ranch did the same thing do you think heads would still be turned the other way? Sweet Pea is a great place, but they need to follow the same rules as everyone else. It is sad that everyone is ignoring the fact that there have been no inspections for safety, no plans reviewed... no fees paid...

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Cooke 4 years, 5 months ago

I have to agree with See on this one. I have yet to hear someone complain about having to wait to use the restroom at Sweetpea. They serve good food at a resonable price. Stmbtgirl, it's not like this is a health issue -- there aren't rats in the kitchen, there aren't too few fire exits, people just have to wait an extra 30 seconds for a bathroom. If you have an ax to grind with Sweetpea, grow up and tell us what your problem really is.

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seeuski 4 years, 5 months ago

stmbtgrl obviously was not around when the city inspected the kitchen and Sweet Pea built one of the cleanest in the city. I have been at the market constantly and have never seen a wait for the restroom. If Sweet Pea was forced to close as stmbtgrl wants then the price of their food would necessarily have to double to pay for the losses and they would be firing several great employees. But no worries, we have created or saved 3.6 million jobs with our tax money, I can see the road signs all over Colorado that says the reinvestment act has done so. So cool. See you on the deck later today.

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oldskoolstmbt 4 years, 5 months ago

stmbtgirl...you are exactly right!....i'm not worried about rats in the kitchen or if i have to wait 30 seconds to pee...hopefully the kitchen is safely 'hooked up'...explosions/ fire ARE a public safety issue...but at least the food is good? what a joke this is!....

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flotilla 4 years, 5 months ago

Scott, you don't just throw up a bathroom attached to an old structure. Katherine and Jonathon are very diligent at PAYING for assistance from local businesses with expertise on the code and clearly, as the article states, there was a communication break-down. They are building the bathroom, paying the fees and admitting their mistakes. Geez Stmbtgrl, I am not a Cari fan, but this is not screaming corruption by any stretch. The track record that Sweet Pea has, citing their business in Curve plaza, which went through planning, is good. And yes, they are employing people who were otherwise unemployed, giving back to the community, supporting local growers, and making people happy. Sorry your friends haven't gotten their liquor license, but it is a totally different issue. we aren't comparing apples to apples here.

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greenwash 4 years, 5 months ago

Cant Sweet Pea throw up a Port a let and call it good ?A handicap accessable one would be even better.

Im sure the food is reasonably priced....They didnt have to pay any permit fees.

Do you think the owners of Boathouse,Ghost Ranch,Sweetwater Grill wish they could of skirted by some of the permit fees?

I do miss Christians special latin smoothies though.

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seeuski 4 years, 5 months ago

A lot of people here are claiming Sweet Pea paid no fees here and got no permits. Are you sure of that? Did they not get a beer and wine in and out license? Did the city inspectors not sign off on the kitchen? Be careful here, libelous charges can be costly.

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greenwash 4 years, 5 months ago

Libelous charges?? BlahBlahBlah....seeuski your just plain stupid....Have a good day.

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Cooke 4 years, 5 months ago

Greenwash -- Calling people stupid. I pose this question directly to you:

You state " Do you think the owners of Boathouse,Ghost Ranch,Sweetwater Grill wish they could of skirted by some of the permit fees?"

What permit fees did Sweetpea skip? Be specific since you are calling people stupid. Obviously you have this information, otherwise you would be much worse than you are calling See.

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stmbtgrl 4 years, 5 months ago

Cooke ,they did not get a building permit for their commercial kitchen, for their deck, they did not pay tap fees for their outdoor seating or their commercial kitchen. Call the City.. it is all public knowledge.

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Colette Erickson 4 years, 5 months ago

They did not pay to tap into the City sewer line. That is a problem. They didn't do any of the proper permitting. Why should they be able to do for free what every other business/residence in town has to pay for? Why did Cari H. feel it appropriate to write a letter to the county asking for a "special dispensation" for this business? Isn't enforcement supposed to be even-handed? Why is Joe Z. of the City Public Works being shut down, and not allowed to do standard enforcement, huh, Cari? Why can't everyone, in these hard times, just get their contractor to tap directly into the line. Permits, smermits, we don't need no stinking permits! Gee, it seems it IS who you know......

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