Many, if not most, restaurants hire attorneys or expediters to shepherd their liquor licenses through City Hall, taking the position that these types of things are best left up to people with experience in such matters. For better or for worse, I decided it would be best to engage the process myself when we set out to acquire a patio license. I found the experience of navigating our original liquor license through City Hall to be immensely informative and ultimately very satisfying for what I learned about how the city works.
I’m having that experience again, but not without a few surprises along the way. It turns out that an outdoor patio license is just like filing for a new liquor license, and much more work than I thought going in. The reason makes a lot of sense – an outdoor patio license is a permanent license so it gets a lot of scrutiny before issuing (sidewalk cafes, by contrast, have to be renewed every year so the process is much simpler.) Additionally, the city has changed a number of procedures encompassing both licensing and the building permit process, so things have taken a little longer than we initially anticipated.
Most of the city’s changes have to do with allocating resources during these lean times, and the changes seem to make sense. Once we learned of the new procedures and got going with them, everything has gone smoothly and in spite of a long hiring freeze, City Hall seems to be getting along just fine. I have to salute the folks at City Hall who are doing all this work, because most of them are taking on bigger workloads than they were a few years ago and they are getting it done.
Couple the intensive licensing process with a couple bits of construction that have to be done, for which permits need to be obtained, architects, landlord, contractors, and inspections to be coordinated, and put that all on top of my day job of running a kitchen and restaurant of a restaurant whose business is growing by leaps and bounds, and I have been swamped. Now I apologize for the lackadaisical treatment of this blog the last couple of months. We’re nearing the end of the licensing tunnel so soon – by next week, I hope – I’ll be updating regularly with recipes, photos, news, and the like.
Every time I grow frustrated with the mountains of paperwork required to get things done at City Hall, I remind myself what an incredible undertaking the administration of this city is. Thousands of restaurants. Thousands of bars. Thousands of retail stores. Industry, transportation, air and water pollution. Tens of thousands of kids in school. Tens of thousands of buildings. There’s a lot to keep track of to ensure the public safety. And with all of that, everyone I have worked with at City Hall has been helpful and courteous, each individual a pleasure to work with. It seems they all know what a pain in the neck some of this stuff is and they are happy to help you get through it, dot the i’s and cross the t’s.
At the end of each day I’m really glad that the city requires so much of people who want to construct buildings, or serve food or alcohol to the public. It’s an extraordinary responsibility.
Hopefully by the beginning of next week this is all wrapped up and the license will be on the way in time for Midsommarfest. There’s so much cool stuff going on and the patio will be beautiful. I’ve got two Anatomy of a Dish and three Cooking at Home posts in the pipeline, plus all the fantastic new menu items we’ve been able to put up with our new wood grill. I also have an exciting announcement about our seafood program and have a few things to say about the seafood industry. So, while I’m happy to be up to my ears in licensing work at the moment, I look forward to getting back to this blog, and showing you our beautiful new patio!