Thursday, October 04, 2007

Was Chuckwagon Even in Violation of the Law?

I've done some digging through the Ft Wayne-Allen County Department of Health ordinances and it's not clear to me that the Chuckwagon restaurant was even in violation of the law. It appears the issue stems from the fact that the Health department decided that Chuckwagon should be declared a "Retail Food Service On-Site Establishment":
10-2-1-29 RETAIL FOOD SERVICE ON-SITE ESTABLISHMENT shall mean any licensed Retail Food Service Establishment that operates a Temporary Food Service Establishment on their premises for a period of time not in excess of ten (10) days per calendar month. Provided, however, this permit will only allow preparation of meat, seafood, poultry and raw vegetables.

Under this definition the Health department is declaring that the cooking of meat on an outdoor smoker qualifies as a Temporary Food Service establishment. But let's take a close look at how that's actually defined:
10-2-1-34 TEMPORARY FOOD SERVICE ESTABLISHMENT shall mean any Food Establishment in any enclosure, stall or other facility, whether fixed or mobile, operating at one site or location for a period of time not in excess of fourteen (14) consecutive days, in conjunction with a single event or celebration, where food in open form intended for human consumption off the premises is offered with or without charge.

Here's the issue - the Chuckwagon was not "offering" food from the smoker itself. It was simply a cooking utensil being used by the restaurant. In my opinion this definition would more aptly apply to a food stand or tent out in the parking lot selling food - like when you see the hotdog stand in the Lowe's parking lot or people selling barbecue chicken from the Kroger parking lot.

I guess what I'm getting at is that the ordinance is not cut and dry. That means the Health department chose to interpret the code in the most stringent manner and then went on to use that interpretation in order to harass Chuckwagon. Where is the check against this abuse of power?

The city council and county commissioners should fully investigate this matter and give the public an explanation on why local government decided to unnecessarily put roadblocks in the way of this small business. The investigation should also encourage others to come forward that feel they have been unfairly treated. You all say you want to remove red tape - well here's a chance to actually do it. I think we all at least owe Mr Marshall that much.


Parson said...

You can almost bet the farm, if KFC put a BBQ cooker outside they wouldn't hear a peep from the city of Fort Wayne. It's awful how this city treats small business, and it's really sad it led to a man's passing because he was more worried about trying to keep his business going he couldn't keep up with his health.

Andrew Kaduk said...

I would interpret this ordinance to refer more specifically to hot dog carts or the infamous "BurritoBago."

Yes, it was a Winnebago that served Mexican food to drunk Buckeyes after the bars closed on High Street in Columbus. It was friggin' sweet.