News For People Who Like Bad News: Small Kitchen Nightmares

The Sustainable Business Network of Philadelphia released a report this week that told us something we’ve long suspected: in Philly, it’s tougher to open a business in the food-service industry than in any other. The report, which studied the requirements for launching and operating a small business in the city, was commissioned to issue recommendations to ease the process.

While it’s no secret that all small business owners in Philly face notoriously laborious and confusing regulations, talking to the authors of the report makes it so much easier to understand and empathize with bar and restaurant owners who, as a matter of course, are forced to succumb to delay after delay after delay when trying to open their establishments. Take the placement of a sink, for example. A food entrepreneur might conscientiously build a sink in accordance to health department guidelines, only to have an L&I inspector come in and tell him or her the location of the sink is against code.

“Restaurant owners more so than any other industries get caught between many city departments because, under the current inspection system, they face inter-agency conflicts,” says SBN executive director Leanne Krueger-Braneky.

An unnamed restaurateur is quoted in the report as saying, “You can’t offend an inspector because they will become petty and issue citations. Sometimes, you can’t even ask questions.”

This type of inter-agency conflict led to the recommendation that inspectors who are in disagreement must resolve the discrepancy between themselves and issue a joint decision within 24 hours. The commerce department has promised to move forward on the recommendations, and members of city council have promised to review them.

Let’s hope that, in this case, everyone can agree on a way to implement this recommendation quickly. Things are tough enough out there already.