Fresno County is giving restaurant owners a break on Environmental Health Permit fees to help off-set financial hardships due to the pandemic.
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors recently approved permit fee credits for restaurants with seating that can demonstrate closure due to COVID-19 in the calendar years 2020-2021.
“It’s a huge win for us from the local level,” says Chuck Van Fleet, the owner of Vino Grille & Spirits and local chapter president of the California Restaurant Association. “For me, it was about $600 to $700 dollars. But, that helped us pay an employee or two for a week without furloughing them in January.”
“For me, it was about $600 to $700 dollars. But, that helped us pay an employee or two for a week without furloughing them in January.” – Chuck Van Fleet, owner of Vino Grille & Spirits
According to a news release, approximately 989 restaurants with seating up to 50 will be issued a fee credit of $205, totaling $202,745. Another 735 restaurants with seating over 50 will be issued a fee credit of $272, totaling $199,920. Another 348 bars will be provided a $303 adjustment totaling $105,560, for a combined total adjustment of $508,225.
The fee adjustment comes after restaurant owners filed class-action lawsuits against the state of California and 12 counties. The counties: Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Monterey, Sonoma, San Bernardino, Riverside, Placer, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Orange, and San Diego seeking refunds for state and local fee assessments.
Fresno County officials worked with the plaintiffs’ attorneys and the California Restaurant Association to reach an agreement before the lawsuit was filed.
“We’re encouraged by Fresno County’s willingness early on, to address the concerns of restaurant owners struggling to stay open during this challenging time,” said lead plaintiffs attorney Brian Kabateck. “The hope is that other state and local agencies will find ways to lighten the financial burden on these businesses.”
Fresno County Department of Public Health
“We’re encouraged by Fresno County’s willingness early on, to address the concerns of restaurant owners struggling to stay open during this challenging time.”– Plaintiffs attorney Brian Kabateck
“In Fresno County, we want to work with our local restaurants to help them get back on their feet,” Fresno County Department of Public Health Director Dave Pomaville said in a statement. “We were glad to do what we could to bring them this modest amount of relief and we hope it will help them reopen safely.”
Van Fleet says when the county was facing the threat of a lawsuit, he and Pomaville got on the phone to work things out without having to go to court.
“We put together some ideas and it was just great,” says Van Fleet. “They did this all without having to go through a lawsuit, and they wanted to help us get open.”
State of California
Van Fleet says so far there’s not been much help from the state to cut fees. He does say that Alcohol Beverage Control is providing some relief.
“Most, or all (alcohol) licenses have a reduction in fees or they’re waived for this year,” he said.
Orange Tier in Sight
Fresno County may get into the state’s orange tier for reopening as soon as next Wednesday. If that happens, restaurants will be allowed to have 50% of their indoor dining capacity filled.
Van Fleet says he’s trying to work out the details of what the orange tier would mean for his banquet room. It can seat up to 64 people, so it’s his belief that he’d be able to get 32 people in there.
“We still need to get a few more people hired. It’s very difficult,” he said.