Food Rules: State’s Right to Override Onerous Fire Code Regulations | Editorials


State officials have acted wisely to help preserve a growing segment of the restaurant economy that seemed threatened by new regulations that would have made it difficult for food truck operators to continue in business.

Food trucks have become a mainstay at farmers markets, craft fairs and festivals across the country, giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to sell their wares without having to invest in a building or other equipment associated with a large kitchen. ladder.

He also often takes the produce to where potential customers already are, places where they are likely to congregate in good weather when looking for a quick bite rather than a meal. The popularity of mobile businesses has grown in recent years, with places such as Lewis County offering unique cuisine through its Food Truck Fridays through early September.

The practice appeared under threat in early June when the state Department of State indicated that it expected municipalities to implement a 2020 change in state building codes regarding food trucks. Previously, trucks only had to pass a state Health Department inspection, mostly limited to food preparation safety, run and buy a fire extinguisher.

The revised code, however, requires food truck vendors to install an ANSUL fire suppression system in the kitchen exhaust hood of the truck. This system could cost up to $15,000.

Based on the review, the City of Watertown sent its Code Enforcement Officer to the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce Farm and Craft Market to notify food truck operators of the code change and the requirement that new suppression systems should be installed.

Upon learning of the requirement, several Watertown City Center Market vendors told the Watertown Daily Times that the added expense was a bridge too far for their small business.

“If we have to get this, I’m leaving,” said Douglas LaMont, who drove a truck to market for several years. “We don’t make $15,000 in one season.”

Fortunately, just before the start of the July 4 weekend, a State Department official informed the city that it was reversing its earlier decision to strictly enforce the new regulations for existing food trucks. A state technical assistance official told the city that food trucks that legally existed before May 12 would be “grandpa”ed under the new requirement and would not have to bring construction modifications to their vehicles.

The official told the city in an email that the code change “does not cause any issues with current vendors” the state was working with and that those vendors would be notified of the “revised interpretation” of the regulations and that they would receive all required operating permits.

It was the right decision of the state and a cause of relief for the operators. It keeps the economic engine of small business running and ensures that patrons at markets, festivals and fairs have the opportunity to enjoy a distinctive meal or snack that otherwise might not be so readily available.

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