Food Service Permit Delays: Impact on Whatcom County Restaurants & Hope for Improvement Ahead

Debashis

Well-known member
Sep 5, 2023
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Attention Whatcom County restaurant proprietors, be aware of substantial delays in acquiring food service establishment permits as outlined in this article. Processing times have expanded to three to four times the norm, impacting numerous businesses. Jabriel Donahue, a restaurateur, encountered an eight-week delay, significantly surpassing the usual 10-day to two-week period. The county health department is inundated with a high volume of projects, causing these setbacks. Fresh permit applications are now under initial review for six to eight weeks, with additional time required for final plan submission and inspection. This predicament proves both financially burdensome and operationally challenging for business owners. Nonetheless, there’s optimism for diminished delays in the forthcoming months as the department addresses its backlog.
 
Location
Whatcom County, Washington, United States
When it comes to issuing permits that allow businesses to conduct business (food service establishment permits in this case), it seems like there are basically two types of permitting timelines: those stated on paper that the agency must (or should) meet and timelines in terms of the business's tolerance for opportunity costs incurred as a result of permitting delays. In other words, permitting delays are often one of those things that "aren't a problem until they're a problem" and for businesses it becomes a huge problem - newsworthy in this case - when the delays lead to costly missed opportunities. For example, the ice cream venue mentioned in the article applied for its permit in June and didn't get permitted until October, much later than it thought it would. You can understand their frustration at missing the opportunity to sell ice cream during the summer as a result of the delay.

I think there could also be an important lesson here in terms of government communications. While the "on paper" permitting timelines are important, it's probably more important for agencies to communicate the actual/typical timelines businesses should expect to experience between application submittal to permit issuance. Generally consultants or other permitting professionals well versed in the process are aware of these "real world" timelines but the public would probably be better served if agencies took the lead communicating this information so as to better set and manage applicant expectations.
 
It's concerning to hear about the big delays in getting food service permits for Whatcom County restaurants. The usual wait time has jumped to three to four times longer than normal, causing trouble for many businesses. The county health department is dealing with a lot of projects, and it's slowing things down. New permit applications are taking six to eight weeks just for the first review, and more time is needed for the final plans and inspections. This is tough for business owners, both financially and in running their operations.
 
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