Friday, December 22, 2006

I really don't mean to harp on this subject but I need to explain the fact that the health inspectors who are keeping us from opening are making a judgment call rather than abiding by any clear set regulations. The first health inspector I spoke to (let's call her "AJ") initially told me we would not need to build a washroom in the store. We went ahead and ordered espresso equipment. She later tells me that what she meant by you don't need a washroom is that we don't need a customer washroom since we will only be selling take-out, but, we do need to build a STAFF washroom. I tell AJ we already have a washroom conveniently located directly adjacent to the store in the very same building. She says that it is her supervisor making these demands, gives me a completely unrealistic scenario about us selling our business separate from our living quarters, and suggests talking to the town office. I do everything I'm told, none of it matters. I ask to speak to her supervisor (let's call her "Nina"). Nina and I have a very unpleasant conversation. She takes the "rules are rules" tone and basically says it was my responsibility to read the handbooks sent to me in the mail. But I did read them. Most of the rules are in regards to CUSTOMER washrooms, which we are still being told we don't need. This is all that it has to say about STAFF washrooms "public eating establishments are required to provide conveniently located washroom facilities for employees." Our washroom is very conveniently located. The only information given specifically in regards to a take-out facility is listed under "Washroom Requirements in Malls" where it says you must provide "any washroom, public or staff, located anywhere in the mall". So a mall can have a staff washroom ANYWHERE in the building but we are not allowed to have our staff washroom (for the staff of us, well, mostly me) located in the same building two steps from our work environment. Nina said that her primary issue is that in two years she imagines we'll have hired 5 or 6 staff and that we won't want them "traipsing through our home”. For one thing, this is rural Saskatchewan, we'll be extremely lucky if our business does well enough to allow Tyler to stay and work at home rather than have to drive to Saskatoon for supplemental income. Secondly, there will be no "traipsing” through our home since the washroom is two steps away from the back door of the shop. Thirdly, if the issue ever arose, which it won't, I would gladly allow any staff to use our home washroom - this is Bruno - I would let customers use our home washroom if they needed to. Fourthly and finally, I would very happily promise to inform the health inspector if I did hire staff and then we could revisit this whole matter! My conversation with Nina went nowhere. It ended with me hanging up the phone in tears. It is a documented fact that people are leaving rural Saskatchewan in record numbers. I now understand why our shop had been sitting empty for years. I totally recognize the need for health codes but this particular issue affects no-one's health in any way, except for my mental health that is.


kickpleat said...

i'm just catching up on my blog reading and now my blood is boiling! i can't believe that they would be so stringent with their own very vague rules!! i definitely would contact your mla or the media because it shouldn't be that hard to open a shop in rural sk....especially when there was an aggressive push a couple of years ago for people in invest their $$ in saskatchewan. i don't get it. regardless, stay sane and try to enjoy the holidays. all of your hard work will pay off in the end. i'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Serena said...

Thanks Jeannette! Tyler and I are heading to Edmonton tomorrow for Christmas. It will be nice to get away and not think about this mess for a little while. When we get back we're going to attack it head on!

Joanne said...

Happy Holidays to you both!!
Thanks for the eccentric e-card :)
I hope that things look up for you in the New Year.

Gwen said...

May I suggest that you add two small walls to make a foyer in front of your existing bathroom, so that you can claim that it is part of the store? It would not cost as much as another bathroom would, and just might do the trick?

Hope this all works out for you.

Steve said...

Um, normally, with something like this, I would say, "Who benefits from preventing you from opening a business" or "Follow the money" as in, who stands to lose or gain from you NOT starting a business. It just doesn't seem to apply here...if it's not someone elses greed, I'm curious as to why the powers that be seem so intent on preventing this from happening, when it all seems win-win for You AND the can it not? Two happy business owners, who are hurting no one...and future happy customers and residents of Bruno. I grew up in small towns, who do nothing but complain that they don't have the things "city-folk" have, but then, when confronted with the possibility...they don't seem to support it...and then wonder why no one wants to do business in their town. Small minds, lack of foresight...I wonder, if it would be different if You tried to open a casino.

Serena said...

I just want to clarify the fact that the town of Bruno is in no way to blame for any of this bathroom nonsense. Bruno has been completely supportive and the people at the town office have done everything they can to help. The health inspector causing all the problems is in Saskatoon (Bruno is far too small to have a local health inspector) and she won't even visit our building in person unless she first approves our floor plans, something she refuses to do!

Christopher Brayshaw said...

You took federally-funded self-employment courses, correct?

You're about to employ local citizens, correct?

Call Bruno's mayor and council -- I'm assuming the town has one or the other -- and ask them for help.

Call your local MLA's office, and sic the friendly office folks there on the health board.

Call your local federal MP's office, dropping the names of the federal courses you took, and sic their office staff on the health board, too.

Call the reporter at the CBC who reported on your business and relay your problem to them.

Lotsa luck!

Christopher Brayshaw

Serena said...

Thanks for the comment Christopher! Some very good advice. I talked to the staff at Sagehill Development where I take self-employment classes and they also told me to contact my MLA so I will definitely be doing so, as well as contacting a long list of others.