Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bureaucrats Kill Local Business - Literally

JG columnist Frank Gray brings us the final chapter in what should be one of the most embarrassing stories for local government:
A notebook on the counter at the Chuckwagon BBQ on East State Boulevard contained thousands of signatures from customers. They were all calling for the owner, Bruce Marshall, to be able to grill his ribs outdoors every day.

He had cooked that way for months at a time for other restaurants, and he had followed the same practice for nearly a year after opening Chuckwagon in 2006.

But then, earlier this year, health officials came crashing down on him, citing a law that said restaurants can’t cook outside more than 10 days a month. If you run a transient business, traveling from one location to another, you can cook outside 365 days a year. But businesses that are at a fixed location can’t do that.

It didn’t make sense to his customers, and it didn’t make sense to Marshall. Rib restaurants in other cities are permitted to cook outside, 24/7, as they say.

But not here.

Marshall resisted, but eventually, under pressure from first the health department and later other departments, he had to cave. His restaurant turned into a part-time establishment, cooking two to three days a week.

That took its toll. Customers weren’t sure when he would be open. He lost employees who needed full-time work.

The restaurant wasn’t making money. Marshall became depressed. His health suffered. He had diabetes and problems with his blood pressure. His blood pressure shot up. But he swore he wouldn’t throw in the towel.

He never did.

Monday afternoon, though, at Parkview Hospital, he lost the fight. He suffered cardiac arrest and died.

I hope the health department is happy. Your insistence on ridiculous regulations and idiotic enforcement has driven a great local restaurant from this community and helped usher in the owner's death. Don't try to absolve yourself from that responsibility - you need to feel his family's pain. You need to realize that your actions have consequences. Read what you have done:
“He was very, very depressed about the whole issue,” said his cousin, Claudia Harris-Stevenson.

As recently as July, Marshall looked good, but as business flagged, he began to slide downhill.

“He was having problems with his blood pressure,” Harris-Stevenson said. “He just gave up. It got to the point where he didn’t care. His business was failing. Money wasn’t coming in.”

Late last week he received a letter from the county. He hadn’t renewed his restaurant license, and the letter threatened to shut him down.

“Bruce stressed himself all the way out,” said his sister, Clara Martin. “He went into a depression,” and on many days couldn’t even go into work. He just shut down.

On Saturday, family members said he didn’t look good and offered to take him to the hospital. He said no, he’d take care of it. He had a doctor’s appointment Monday.

But he didn’t make it to the doctor’s appointment. Instead, Monday afternoon, an employee took him to the hospital. On the way, family members say, his business was all he talked about – the lack of income and that it was failing.

“He shouldn’t have been thinking about that on the way to the hospital,” Harris-Stevenson said. He should have been thinking about himself, about his health.

Now, the restaurant is closed. It won’t reopen. It will turn into a vacant building, just the way it was for three years before Marshall started cooking ribs there.

Where was the city leadership when this man needed help? I'm sick and tired of listening to council members tell us how we need to cut red tape for local businesses - save it. The rubber met the road here and you failed. It's easy to talk about cutting red tape, especially in an election year, but stories like this speak for themselves. This wasn't some unknown incident - this story has been well publicized. Local government, county and city, failed Bruce Marshall. This is the type of statistic that doesn't show up in six sigma reports and other bureaucratic nonsense. This was a man's livelihood and now it's gone.

I am not without responsibility here - I too failed Mr Marshall. I enjoyed his restaurant but never did enough to fight for him. I strongly believe that it's the job of local bloggers to hold government accountable and to ensure that these issues are brought to the forefront. I shouldn't have allowed these bureaucrats to get away with this garbage and for that I am sorry.

It won't happen again...


J Q Taxpayer said...

I posted my beliefs on one other site but will post expanded comments on my own.

I do hold these elected officials, who have run on the platform of cutting red tape for small busiess 100% accountable for his premature death. Sure he could have passed on next month or next year but they put him there sooner then he should have.

Dr. Crawford, when you leave you fav hospital and headed east to your house please pull into his lot, stop and get out of your auto, look around, and bow you damn head in prayer. You sir, should act for a little forgivness.

You may think you and your phony elected friends can think this will go away and it will. However, for some of us we will always think of you as pushing a man to an early death who was just trying to make a buck.

Of course he was just a stupid taxpayer who knew nothing and had no input to our city. Who cares? Us little people care and we will remember the rest of our lives.

jon said...

It seems that many of us agree that Mr. Marshall is a victim of government run amuck...the question is what are we willing to do about it?

Dan Turkette said...

Jon, I'd encourage you to start a blog and let people know your opinions there. After close to two years of blogging we finally have an edge on the mainstream media. The boys at the city county building spend quite a bit of time watching all of us whackos and know we're going to have an effect come November.

Jump in - the waters fine!

Jeff Pruitt said...

Jon, that's a good question. At this point there's nothing we can do to help Bruce. However, the city council needs to investigate this matter and remedy the situation. I've been told that the owner of the Health Food Shoppe is also being harassed.

I will be sending a letter to the city council, county commissioners and the mayor's office demanding they have a full investigation and public hearing into the matter.

If anyone else has ideas then I'm certainly willing to listen...

John B. Kalb said...

Jeff - Good luck with your "letters to whomever". I really don't believe that a majority on the present council are so arrogant that they file most pieces of paper(except the green kind) in the trash ASAP! I intend to do all I can to derail the ones who want to continue this charade - at the poles in November. John B. Kalb

J Q Taxpayer said...

Jeff, either here or by email fill me in on the Health Food Shoppe issue.

Andrew Kaduk said...

John Kalb,

You are getting to be a little to pessimistic fella! If you send letters to people offering opinion and assistance instead of vitriol and accusation, your results will be much better.

When I was 20 years old, I got some signage and a stoplight changed in less than 72 hours as the result of a proactive email I sent to the Pavement Management just have to be nice and stop calling people "crooks and idiots."

Diplomacy really does go a long way...

Bridle your passion a little bit, big guy! Bureaucrats are people too...sort of. :)

Charlotte A. Weybright said...


Are you referring to the Health Food Shoppe on Anthony? Could you expand on how the City is harassing them?

I trade at the Shoppe at times. I would be interested in knowing what on earth it is that they are doing incorrectly.

Jeff Pruitt said...


Yes that is the place.

I have now found out that there was no specific complaint but more a general discontent towards the health department and overly strict rules...

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