Making concessions

The $300 application fee is waived, but all food stands are now required to be licensed, inspected

October 14, 2007|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,Special to The Sun

The first chilly night of the fall kept business brisk at the Arundel High School concession stand. At halftime of the boys' soccer match against South River on Thursday, at least 20 people stretched along the fence to buy hot dogs and hot chocolate.

Behind the counter, five or six volunteers ran about filling cocoa cups, frying fries and ringing up customers at the window.

The stand was well-lit and roomy, and the giant freezers and cooking equipment were no more than two years old.

"There are restaurants that aren't as well-equipped as this," said Bernie Walter, the school's athletic director.

Inspectors this fall are visiting concession stands at Arundel, other schools and 36 parks in the county in anticipation of a new law that will require all of them to get licensed to prepare food on site.

The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, waives the normal application fee of about $300 as part of the process, which includes an annual inspection.

But it also allows the county to shut down stands that don't meet standards for cleanliness and equipment - potentially dealing a heavy blow to the booster clubs that rely on stands as major moneymakers.

Gerry Zitnik, program manager for housing and food protection services, called the change "administrative" by adding concession stands to the county's list of regulated establishments.

"You operate any type of food stand or food facility in this county, and technically you need a license," he said.

Just like private business owners, concession-stand owners - whether it's the Board of Education or private youth sports organizations - will need a new license every March 1.

It's another step in the county's two-year effort to upgrade concession stands at local parks and schools that are used for outdoor events.

Zitnik said the county and recreation councils have been working closely to upgrade equipment and ensure the older stands are up to par.

"We try to give them insight and advice," Zitnik said.

"Quite often, we see equipment that may not be in great shape and try to get them updated wherever possible."

Changes involving physical structures like floors, walls, ceilings or plumbing would be paid for by whoever owns a particular concession stand.

But pieces of equipment like refrigerators and fryers are the responsibility of each group using a stand.

"Right now, about 75 percent are up to the minimum standards and ... have a list of 10 or 12 that have yet to be renovated and want to finish as [quickly as possible]," said Frank Marzucco, the county's director of recreation and parks.

Former Arundel High Booster Club president John Puglise said that the high school could bring in about $7,000 in one night with a big crowd and be able to keep nearly 80 percent of it.

In addition, the school has a second concession stand it uses for each home football game and already has the food permit.

Arundel High's concession stand is approximately 40 by 45 feet and has restrooms in the back.

In addition, it's painted green around a few large white paw prints to represent the school's mascot, the Wildcat.

Puglise, who works in the restaurant business, has helped bring in some of the kitchen equipment.

Posted on the walls are lists instructing how to cook with various utensils, and how to put things away and make sure everything stays clean.

"They will have to adhere to all of the health department regulations [now]," said Marzucco. "These community groups will [do it because] they depend heavily on the concession stands."

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