Lorraine Rakes In The Fees

Allan Appel PhotoThe forms and attached fees began to cross Lorraine Reed’s desk in waves this week.  It’s re-licensing season for all the 1,054 (by last count) food establishments in New Haven. That means about $250,000 in income for the city, collected through the health department’s environmental health unit.

From the most elegant haute cuisine dining room to school cafeterias to humble food carts, every eatery or place that handles food in town must relicense before May 1.

That includes 513 restaurants, 114 institutions, 192 itinerant vendors, 164 retail stores, 24 bakeries, and ten processing plants. There are also one-off or seasonal vendors like folks setting up for St. Patrick’s Day. They pay too.

All told that means adds up to the approximately $250,000 for New Haven’s coffers, estimated Paul Kowalski, longtime director of the environmental health unit.

Along with their forms the food handlers send in fees based on their square footage.

Beginning back in February, Reed, who has worked with Kowalski and the department for about 26 years, sent out letters to all the current food establishment license holders.

Those with 1,500 square feet or under pay $150. If your place is above 1,500 square feet but less than 3,000, your license renewal will cost you $275. If you have over 3,000 square feet, including storage on the premises, then you pay $475.

Highest fees are to caterers, whose annual license renewal is $550. According to records the department provided, about 26 caterers come up with the fee.

The public and state schools are exempt but not the private schools and colleges. Most food pantries and soup kitchens are exempt too, but not if they sell stuff or have a for-profit component.

Anybody not paying by May 1 faces a $150 late fee.

As she kept up her work stapling the checks to the forms, Reed said occasionally people come in to pay cash. She said she expects at most 200 establishments to be delinquent and, er, to eat the penalty.

Last year 99.91 percent of the establishments paid and were renewed. It’s easy to understand why: If you do not have a license, you are not operating.

Kowalski said that the number of establishments in the city that deal with food, approximately 1,000 to 1100,  has remained stable over the last few years.

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