The Metreon's Island Earth Farmer's Market (101 Fourth St. at Mission) is suddenly feeling rather chilly, and it has nothing to do with the cold front. At an abatement hearing, the Health Department has determined that the market's permit to sell food cooked on site has expired, meaning that only vendors of produce and pre-made, non-perishable foods are allowed to operate.Richard Lee, director of environmental health regulatory programs for the S.F. Department of Public Health, told SFoodie Island Earth was operating under a special events permit -- the same one that food vendors at street fairs have -- which is temporary. Though the market had a 90-day permit, Lee determined that the four or five vendors who sold potentially hazardous foods were only permitted to operate for 25 of those 90 days.
"The booths at the Metreon were not designed to be open daily for a long period of time," Lee said. Island Earth vendors have been operating seven days a week practically since the market opened last May. The city requires individual vendors to have their own permits, but the sponsor -- Island Earth management -- has to have a valid special events permit. Lee said that under that agreement, management is not allowed to renew for another permit that would allow cooked food vendors to operate for another 25 days. Essentially, the vendors themselves are cooked.
"For them to continue, they wouldn't be able to operate daily," Lee said. "They'd have to make themselves into the retail food equivalent of a taco truck" -- meaning they need access to refrigeration and hand-washing sinks, among other things.
Island Earth management did not return calls to SFoodie, and its Web site has apparently shut down. Lee said management had appealed his decision, but the Health Department ruled that Lee's original decision to halt selling of potentially hazartdous foods was correct.
El Porteño Empanadas is one of the vendors no longer able to sell at the Metreon. Owner Joseph Ahearne told SFoodie its closure there is having a big impact. "It's almost 60 percent of our revenues," he said.
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