I tell folks all the time -- there are very few bad people in government, just people with very bad incentives. Government inspectors are no exception. They look around them and see falling government tax revenues. They know that state and local governments are looking to cut costs, and they know further that lawmakers are likely to look at falling construction starts and reduced business activity and say "I bet we could do with fewer inspectors."
So state inspectors, naturally, want to hold onto their jobs, so they have to go out and look busy. One way to look busy (and to further look like one is being useful) is to be more picky about small, meaningless violations. Writing up more violations makes it look like one is needed (after all, if there are so many violations out there, surely we need inspectors to find them). Also, violations demand return visits and follow-up inspections, which again create the illusion of activity.
Sherrie Nielson owns two Chandler bars, antique-filled Priceless Too at Alma School and Elliot roads, and Priceless Primetime at Dobson and Elliot.
An inspector with the county department of environmental services has told her she needs to install a sink at the bar so it's convenient for the bartenders to wash their hands
Nielson has one sink in the bar area, but that's for washing glasses. County regulations say employees can't wash their hands in the same sink that they wash dishes.
"I've owned 'Too' for 30 years," Nielson said. "The sink we use is probably 20 feet in a different direction. . . . I have a dishwashing sink; (the inspector) wants a hand sink next to it."
Nielson says counting the sinks in the kitchen and the restrooms, she has four sinks available for washing hands. But the key point is that it has to be convenient for the bartender.
"If I don't comply, they will start proceedings to shut me down," she said.
Johnny Dilone, a spokesman for the county environmental services department, verified that Nielson's license could be revoked if she doesn't install the new sink.
This story resonates with me, as we have had to fight the sink battle in a number of locations as well. Take one small store we run in a state park in northern California. Because we make coffee there, we must comply with food preparation rules (including 8 hours annually of training, lol. I am not a coffee drinker, but for all that I sure hope we have good freaking coffee). We eventually had to install: A three sink dishwashing station, a sink in the employee bathroom, a separate sink for handwashing in the store a few feet from the sink in the bathroom, and a mop sink.
The problem is that the regulations are confusing, and no one in the local health department would look at our plans in advance. Obviously, it is a lot easier to fix missing sinks and such at the planning stage, but the health department in this county would only inspect actual facilities, so would only tell us if our design met their requirements once it was built!