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Hamburger business near Caledonia operating without health approvals

The Sachem

July 9, 2013

By Jennifer Vo

The new hamburger business on Argyle Street South just before Plank Road near Caledonia is currently operating without approvals from the Health Unit.

The Medical Officer of Health for Haldimand and Norfolk Dr. Malcolm Lock said a “cursory” examination has been done at the site early last week, and the Health Unit has issued some requests for the operator in order for the business to meet basic health standards.

Lock could not elaborate on the infractions, but he said the Health Unit is expecting the operators to come back with a plan on how they would resolve the issues.

“We’re treading softly on this because of the history [of the land] and also potentially the safety of my staff,” said Lock.

The hamburger stand sits in the middle of a land claim dispute on provincially owned property near a smoke shop.

The site is not being serviced by municipal water or hydro, and County staff confirmed there is a generator on the site.

“Potable water is one of the things that we would need to ensure is available,” said Lock. “Although they have water on the premises, which they say is trucked in, we haven’t had access to test that water yet. It would be one of the things that we would need to do.”

Establishments that serve food would also be required to have proper storage facilities with proper temperature controls for hot and cold foods.

At the moment, the Health Unit is working with the operator to bring the location up to code, and as long as the operator is cooperative, the Health Unit said they would continue to give them a timeline to get everything up to code.

Lock said that timeline would be a “short number of weeks. If we thought that they were moving towards compliance then we would give them a reasonable timeline.”

Until then, the location remains open and serves food to the public, and the Health Unit will tread carefully, but Lock admits if the hamburger stand were located anywhere else within the county, “we would have closed it until we had minimum code.”

He added that closing this particular location down is “not an option because we don’t go in there and put padlocks on the door; we issue orders for them to close. If they don’t close then it has to be enforced. We don’t have an enforcement arm. We would then be seeking the cooperation of the OPP.”

The site was constructed in the summer of 2011, and Karen General, acting chief administrative officer for Haldimand County, confirmed that the structure did not receive a building permit or proper paper work to operate as a business.

“This is unique in that it obviously was a building constructed on provincial land in conjunction with the smoke shop on that same land.”

She said that at the time, the procedure that staff followed was to work with the provincial government as well as the OPP to try to ensure that the hamburger stand did not open.

The location stayed vacant until just a couple of weeks ago when its operators began serving customers “fresh cut fries and hamburgers,” as it says on the sign.

“We’re actively working on trying to resolve the issue now,” said General. “It’s a delicate issue given the past history of some of the protest activities, so we’re trying to figure out the best option of getting this addressed as quickly as possible.”

The construction of the hamburger stand had been a contentious issue for residents in the area. The topic only flared again when residents noticed the shop serving food to customers.

Caledonia resident Doug Fleming protested against the structure when it first went up, which at the time had been an issue for the building department and the OPP.

“Now, the health department and the fire department have a stake in this,” he said, adding that he’s been in contact with the building, health and fire departments since the business became active.

Along with the preliminary health inspection, County staff also confirmed that the fire department has been on the site as well with no approvals granted.

Lock said if anything does happen at the site, he thinks it will be a coordinated approach among all of the stakeholders.

“In the end, it’s going to be a combined approach as to what we can do and what appetite there is from the powers that be to pull it through.”

But for now, he said the Health Unit is trying to work with the operators to reach minimum health standards.

“We’re only looking at it from a health perspective. We’re not looking at it from all the other things that are involved with a new premise opening,” said Lock, adding that if the Health Unit doesn’t receive cooperation, they will move along the legislative pathway and their normal procedures and issue “more stringent orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.”

But Fleming has heard all of this before. He said he realizes the issue is a political one, but that is not good enough for him.

“Ultimately, the Ontario government is presiding over this, but they cannot tell their people to pick and choose who they’re applying their rules to,” he said. “The fact of the matter is I know people – women from the church – who used to prepare the meals at home and they can’t do that anymore. I have a real beef with that kind of over policing anyways, but if you’re going to do it then do it for everyone.”

Fleming along with other Caledonia residents held a protest near the hamburger stand site on Sunday, July 7.

“The purpose of the protest is to bring attention to the fact that these enforcers who crack down on everyone else are just ignoring this,” he said.