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Friday, November 20, 2009

More Details Emerging About Eighty-Sixing Hot Foods at Metreon Farmers' Market

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2009 at 4:47 PM

Was it a case of poor management from the very beginning?
  • Was it a case of poor management from the very beginning?
There's more information coming forth about why the S.F. Department of Public Health has essentially driven a stake through the heart of foods prepared on-site at the Metreon's Island Earth farmers' market. SFoodie has obtained a Nov. 5 letter from Department Director Mitchell Katz to Island Earth market managers Mark and Holly Brett suggesting that the Bretts never should have allowed prepared food vendors in the market in the first place.

In his letter, Katz points out that the Bretts obtained a farmers' market permit in May. And while the market has three certified farmers, the numerous prepared food vendors needed to operate under a separate food permit. As a result, the Health Department determined that Island Earth could really only qualify for a temporary food permit -- the kind street fairs and weekly farmers' market operate under -- but that permit, according to Katz, "explicitly limits operations to 25 days in 90." In other words, Island Earth had long since used up its prepped food permit.

The only solutions Katz can see are expensive: Have individual vendors essentially build mini kitchens, or have the Metreon build a central commissary kitchen and operate as a food court. However, Katz wrote, "both would involve substantial capital investments to meet the higher standard of structural requirements imposed on all daily operating retail businesses." In other words: Sorry, Island Earth -- foods cooked or held at temperature on-site are out of the question.

The Bretts had apparently appealed to Supervisor Chris Daly after the Health Department's original finding (Mark Brett hasn't returned our calls). Whether the permitting issue shows the Brett's negligence or merely their unfamiliarity with municipal codes, we can't say, although we did note back in May when the market was launching that Mark Brett had never actually operated a farmers' market before. And it should be noted that the market was originally only meant to be temporary, a kind of pop-up that'd last until the Metreon underwent an extensive facelift, a project in serious delay.

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