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Gingersnap
03-02-2010, 11:28 AM
County pulls plug on free coffee, doughnuts at Camarillo store

By Mark Storer
Posted February 24, 2010 at 4:55 p.m. , updated February 24, 2010 at 5:58 p.m.

Ty Brann likes the neighborly feel of his local hardware store. The fourth-generation Ventura County resident and small business owner has been going to the B & B Do it Center on Mobile Avenue in Camarillo for many years. His company, Kastle Kare, does pest control, landscaping and plant care, and he’s a B & B regular.

So when he learned the county had told B & B it could no longer put out its usual box of doughnuts and coffee pot for the morning customers, Brann was taken aback.

I was a little outraged, to be honest,” said Brann, 45. “They were putting this stuff out there out of the kindness of their hearts. They called it their little pink box of love. I thought it had to be a joke.”

An anonymous customer complaint to the county brought health inspectors to the store, who determined its tradition of more than 15 years of offering coffee and doughnuts to customers violated food-handling regulations.

“We’ve been doing this since we bought the place 15 years ago and the previous owner was doing it, too,” said Randy Collins, 42, co-owner with his parents of B & B. “We simply weren’t aware we were causing a problem.”

Inspectors told Collins that unless he was willing to install stainless-steel sinks with hot and cold water and have a prep kitchen to handle the food, he was violating the law.

“The state health and safety code talks about food regulations,” said Elizabeth Huff, manager of community services for the Ventura County Environmental Health Division. “Anybody who handles food is subject to the regulations.”

At issue is the level of permit required for a retail establishment to offer food to the public. “What some establishments do is hire a mobile food preparation services or in some cases a coffee service,” said Huff. “Those establishments have permits and can operate in front of or even inside of the stores. But where the public has access to food, permitting is required.”

Huff indicated there are several levels of permits, depending on the store’s needs. All carry various costs.

“We’re certainly working with the health department,” said Collins. “We want to be in compliance with the law.”

But some customers are upset.

“This is a small town,” said Brann. “I don’t think they did anything wrong, I mean, just coffee? Come on. This seems a little overboard and heavy-handed to me.”

“It’s the money, not the sanitation,” Thomas Frye, 75, of Camarillo said of the county’s motivation. “We’ve abandoned common sense where the need for licenses and fees are more important than tradition.”

VStar (http://www.vcstar.com/news/2010/feb/24/county-pulls-plug-on-free-coffee-doughnuts-at/)