Routt County commissioners to review food service regulations
Meeting spurred by Sweet Pea compliance issue
July 27, 2010
County commissioners and environmental health officials are meeting today to discuss the civil penalty process for violations of state regulations for food service establishments. It's a discussion spurred by an ongoing compliance issue at a downtown Steamboat Springs restaurant.
Sweet Pea Market and Cafe, 729 Yampa St., for several weeks has had 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, but Hieb has said they likely will delay installation of a second bathroom until after the busy summer season, choosing instead to potentially pay a fine of as much as $1,000.
Mike Zopf, director of the Routt County Environmental Health Department, said department staff is continuing to inspect 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.
Hieb declined to comment.
Today's discussion, Zopf said, is intended to update the Routt County Board of Commissioners on the situation and get their input on the penalty process, he said. The discussion is at 3:35 p.m. today at the historic Routt County Courthouse's Commissioners Hearing Room.
Zopf said "this provision to assess the civil penalty has been on the books for a while," but he's never had a reason to start the discussion with commissioners.
Typically, he said, restaurants or cafes violate state regulations that require action to achieve compliance on the spot, or by the next inspection.
In this case, he said, Sweet Pea can either eliminate its seating above 15 — the state's cut-off point for food establishments with one bathroom — or construct a bathroom.
The commissioners act as the county's board of health. Ultimately, Zopf said, there's "a potential for suspension of a license" if the noncompliance continues beyond the three fines in a calendar year.
But the situation doesn't appear likely to progress that far. Hieb has said he intends to comply with the state regulation. He's working with an architect and the Routt County Regional Building Department on plans for a second bathroom in the future.
Zopf reiterated that today's meeting is talk about the penalty process in general.
"We didn't schedule this meeting just to talk about this specific issue but just to talk about this process and get any feedback that may be necessary for us to move forward," Zopf said.