Thursday, April 28, 2011
I got my approval from County Sewer as well today. So I had to pay about $400 to subit for approval, then another $250 for the variance to have a grease trap vs a grease interceptor (which is $40k, so thank god it was only $250!) then another $90.00 for a pro-rated yearly sewer fee. A very nice man (John Ortega) came out and checked it all out in person to see if a grease interceptor was possible (it wasn't). County Sewer are VERY nice, very helpful and easy to work with.
My room mate also took a charcuterie platter to her boss, who is the owner of the Peasant and the Pear restaurants and offshoots and he loved it. It makes me feel really good when a really good chef likes my stuff :) Stein and I spent two solid days in production to make the four varietals of sausage we plan to offer to T-Rex, in addition to the dry cured stuff I already have on hand. The chocolate chili sausage is everyone's favorite... but it doesn't taste like chocolate at all, so I am going to have to call it something else. And NEXT time, I am adding WAY more chocolate.
I also have evrything ready to go for ABC... I've had it for a couple of days. I don't feel like I am in that much of a hurry any more, since lord knows what is happening to my time line any more. But I need to really avoid that kind of thinking. I would rather be over prepared, than anything else.
I am also really excited because, as you guys know, I was worried about finding the right smoker. I really need an alto-shaam smoker because it doesn't go over 220 degrees so it doesn't need to be always under a hood. It can be wheeled over to the hood for smoking etc. But... I'd only seen them new (and $6000 to $11000 in cost). The one at the school is an older model and the handle is broken, but it is perfect for me. So I asked Chef Brion and Chef Paul if I could buy it off the school (they are getting all new equipment shortly as they are buidling a whole new HRM building) and they said yes! I think I will end up paying about $500 for it. That is the final peice of the puzzle I was really worried about and you cannot imagine how relieved I am.
It felt good to be back at school. I really love that place and my instructors. I also felt great teaching the sausage class and I hope they ask me to do it again. It is probably very different going to a public Jr. College for a culinary degree than one of the expensive schools, but I feel like the guys (Chef Brion, Chef Paul, Mr E, Claude and Chef Chris) give you 110% if you are serious about what you are doing... I just love those guys and had such an amazing experience there. Mr E helped me figure out how to deal with my one unit of co-op I need, which is also a huge releif.
Samantha took pictures of us making the sausages at the school, so if she posts them soon I will pull a few here.
So the week was a mixed bag... a total nightmare with the Building Dept, but I am getting some really encouraging interest in my products, I get to spend a snuggly weekend in the wine country with my gorgeous man, and two of my amazing children, plus a bunch of my sausage-geek friends (we are having the first meeting of the Saluminati) and our extended peer group, plus Brion's totally awesome parents. I hope next week will bring some peace and clarity to my path. It will be interesting to cook so much at a camping event. Well, not really cook... more like... plating, cutting etc. It will be a lot of cold foods.
Stein and I also have some meetings next week for business insurance, workers comp insurance, plus a POS system. It should be pretty busy!
Monday, April 25, 2011
So we meet at the site on Friday to talk about how to make it ADA accessible and the engineer and the Build Dept make suggestions. I incorporate them into my visio and ask Jeff if I can send him a copy. He (with his as usual totally unhelpful attitude) says, "I don't like to get this stuff thru email." I finally talk him into (after much hemming and hawing about it) giving me his email adress (which is on his f*cking regular business card, so it's not a secret) and send him the stuff on Sunday night when I get home and can redo the visio. This is the email response I get back from him:
"Rachael, got your plan and in review the ramp @ front door as drawn doesn’t comply nor does the bathroom. The plan also doesn’t scale. please draw plans with detailed dimensions for these area’s.
Thanks, Jeff "
So not only does he NOT say what specifically needs to be fixed (doesn't scale to what?), it is clear they, once again, cannot agree on what is compliant. What he really wants, and what is not required, are expensive professionaly drawn layouts. I think he is going to be an obstruction until he gets them.
I am not sure if it is better that I had all really nice government employees all along until now, or if it is more annoying that I know how unusual (and hence, uneccessary) it is to be so unfriendly to small business. I've already paid thousands of dollars for address specific permits and licenses and I feel really stuck now. And really it all boils down to one young (and I would guess really new to his job) guy who seems like maybe he is trying to avoid work by throwing up arbitrary road blocks.
I am going to ask David to work with him, because I don't have time to get in a major pissing match and that would really stress me out. He seems to be more comfortable talking to and working with men, so maybe that will make things go smoother. If not, I will ask for a different person to work with. But frankly the first time I went in there the other guy wasn't any more helpful, so I suspect the problem is systemic.
On the positive side, Stein and I will get started on salumi tomorrow and I will get to teach a sausage making class at DVC tomorrow night! Which is also my 41st birthday :) YAY for getting older!
Sunday, April 24, 2011
The building dept met myself, my contractor, my landlord and the engineer to discuss the retrofitting fo the building (surpise! All that "Grandfathered in" stuff... isn't). It will be a multi week process just to figure out what needs to be done, then the steel frames needed to brace the front are custom made in Santa Clara, and then shipped to the East Bay. We don't know how much work the side wall needs. If it is thick enough (in relation to the height of the wall) then it might not need a bunch of stuff. If it doesn't need a lot, we can get started on the inside of the kitchen, then at least be working on getting the kitchen permitted and start some prep while they are working on the front of the building. They also let it slip that they are tearing out the patio next week to repave the road... and not putting the patio back in. So I've just lost about 1/4 of my seating area. Also, most disturbingly, the guy who brokered my lease, is a city council member and likely knew they were tearing it out when we signed the lease... which is why he did not mention the unreinforced masonry issues, but he DID make me sign a waiver acknolweding that the patio did not belong to the landlords and could be taken out by the city at any time. He was SO adamant about it... I should have known. The sad part is, I think they were stalling on telling the landlords so they did not have to deal with Stan's mom. At any rate... I am feeling like the broker should have just been honest about what was going on; I certainly would not work with him in the future. So... not only is my restaurant indefinitely delayed... I won't have the patio seating I was planning on. But I suppose on the upside, I don't have to buy outside seating. And the landlord is paying for the fixes to the front and seems determined to get the stuff done quickly. And he's talking to his family about delaying when I have to start paying rent... but still... I am feeling pretty down about the whole thing.
Friday, April 22, 2011
But this mornings sojourn to the site with the Building Dept and Engineer was pretty heartbreaking. At first they said I would probably not be able to get started on the kitchen build out until the end of June... Which would have put me open some time in August...
But they kind of came around to doing the seismic retrofitting while David works on the kitchen, so hopefully the 3 week build out on the kitchen, then I get my health permit to start prepping food while they finish the retrofit to the front of the building. But it will be at least a two week delay while they do all of the engineering calculations to figure out what The PlanTM will be.
I should know in 2-3 days if the side wall the bathroom will be on needs work, if it doesn't we can get started on the kitchen part pretty quickly... but either way... I think I might cry if anyone asks me, "When are you opening?" this weekend.
I may try to work on developing the food booth aspect so I can have some income (and possibly train the person I want to do that part of things) in the mean time... but... this so totally sucks.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
We had FP last night (for those that don't know, I am involved in a Medieval club where we delve as deeply as we can into all things Medieval, including fighting... and sausages! We hold a weekly fighter practice at our home which has turned into a bit of a house party every Wed night) and I still managed to go to bed pretty early. We got up this morning and Stein met us at the house for our foray into the Weaver roasting facility in San Rafael.
We got there a little early and Michael (a business partner) was not quite there yet, so we chatted with John Weaver, who was the Master Roaster for Pete's coffee for many years before leaving to do his own thing at Wild Card. I'd brought in some of my salumi for them to try... it is pretty cool to see someone like John Weaver light up at the prospect of trying someone ELSE's hand crafted stuff.
We got to see how he roasts stuff and some of the antique equipment he has on hand... god the place smalls like heaven (if you like coffee)! Of course we spent a good hour there and talked for maybe 10 minutes about business (I am a sure thing, we want the coffee). The rest of the time we geeked out about food and coffee. They tried my salumi and... there is this thing people do when they are surprised by food. They want to be looking at you when they talk to you, but they can't stop looking at the salumi. When that happens... you have new true believers. For a master at his craft to like my stuff... well that was extremely cool.
Also, they are practically neighbors and really cool people I can totally see BBQing with. The hour went too quickly... I swear we could have stayed all day.
But we needed to go to the city to try and pick up my deep fryer. Brion cannot do the fire supression stuff without the exact specs for the hot equipment. So we headed into the Mission, stopping at at a Chicken and Waffles place near Japan Town that had a cheap and EXCELLENT buffet. They brought Sammy a cup of hot chocolate mounded high with whipped cream that was the size of his head!
I found a very nice deep fryer for $750.00, plus a K-class fire extinguisher. We hit the airport for Stein's very awsome wife on the way home and then grabbed Sparky's Burgers (the only ones I really like) and now I am home and a bit stressing out.
I am meeting Stan (my landlord), Dave (my contractor), the guys from the building Dept plus the engineer at the facility tomorrow to try and get things squared away. The Buidling Dept has been so arbitrary and difficult that I am really nervous about how it will go. I have everything they have requested from me, and I will submit it tomorrow. I also have everything for the Sanitation dept as well. I will pick up my divorce decree while I am down there meeting the guys so I can submit the rest of the stuff to ABC next week. I will drop off the stuff to Sanitation in the morning, them meet with the guys and drop all the stuff off to the Building Dept tomorrow.
Then I am out of town for the weekend! Next week, Stein and I are making sausages and salumi all week to prep for the cafe opening (all of the six week cure stuff), plus making the hot smoked stuff for T-Rex. I am also teaching the sausage class on Tuesday night at DVC (it is a part of the Garde Manger course)... which is also my birthday!!!! I may have a freind who is a chef coming by to help (he wants to learn about the process).
Oh crap, that means I need to put together my product list so I can order the stuff tomorrow. I better get on it!
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
- I filled out the paperwork for the variance from County Sanitation
- Called ABC and clarified which documents I still need to fill out
- ABC (who are so nice and helpful, I KNOW it can be done) also told me to fill out the simple addendum to get a regular caterers beer/wine permit (so I don't have to go get one for every individual event)
- I gathered the documents I need to go copy tomorrow (facility lease)
- Have the address and procedure to go get a copy of my divorce paperwork
- Sent in the electronic copies of the blueprints to Fedex so I can pick up another copy tomorrow
- Talked at length to David today about the new floor plan to make the facility ADA accessible (front in particular)
- Did new visio diagrams with two different ramp options to make the facility ADA accessible and sent them to Stan and Dave
- Wrote my disclosure letter for the Building Dept
- Did a total BTU useage calculation for the Building Dept
- Emailed Stan and reminded him that he needs to write a letter saying I have permission to do the work I am doing
- Did a new Diagram of the restaurant for ABC
- Filled out the Gift/Loan form for ABC
I still have a full day tomorrow of running around, but I do feel like I got a little bit of the chaos under control today (WHEW!)
BTW here is the newest floor diagram (I know Stein will be interested!) of the possible ADA fix
So for permits I need:
Alcohol and Beverage Control:
- Complete highlighted portions of ABC-217 and ABC 208 forms
- Copy lease agreement
- ABC-293 form
- ABC 207 E&F forms
- Re-do my diagram for ABC-257 form
- Submit a copy of my divorce decree (go to Clerks office and get copy)
- ABC-245 form
- ABC-203 form
- Fill out a gift/loan form
- Letter acknowledging the unreinforced masonry and ADA issues
- Layout plan
- Plumbing plan
- Letter from Stanley that it's ok to do the work
- There is also some dispute on whether I've turned in the HVAC plans or not
- Better Layout of plumbing plan
- Paperwork for the variance and $300.00 (more)
- Meet with two new Brides
- Order product to make the new smoked salumi for T-Rex sampling on May 3rd
- Make cohesive plan with Stein to get salumi made next week
Things have been crazy... but some good stuff happening too!
Monday, April 18, 2011
It's been a strange week, full of highs and lows. The process feels strangely out of my hands currently. After a relatively lucky run of helpful and caring government employees, I've come across the inevitable minority that makes one wonder if they were all this way, would no new business ever launch?
I now know why businesses don't make it past the first year. Who can spend a year not working (and opening a business is a full time job... unpaid, of course), spending thousands of dollars a month of tithes to the various government bodies to get the umpteen permits, licenses and variances and not go broke?
Most of the people get it, most of the places I've dealt with have gone over and above to help me. They feel bad for those of us brave enough to try and... you know... stimulate the sluggish California economy. The Building Dept however... has just been miserable to deal with.
Today Stan told me the Building Dept actually did a seminar last year where they told the building owners they would likely have to boot out all of their tennants so they could retrofit the buildings. Boot out all of their tennants... for a year... so they could retrofit the buildings. How do you think something like that would effect the economy of the Downtown area? You can imagine the surprise when Stan talked to the engineer on Friday and was told it was a 2-3 week process and no tennants would be effected. That kind of alarmism is irresponsible imo. And that has been my experience with them as well. I think they think they are being "helpful", but looking for any reason to stall and stall (after I've already gotten thru two of the more exhaustive processes with flying colors) at this late juncture of the process is financially and mentally a huge burden.
Anyway, I am sure it is bad Karma to even vent about it.
There is a bunch of good stuff that has happened too... I swear! But I am too annoyed at yet another moment of "Crap... what happens now?" to write about it. I know I will hear more as the week goes on, and hopefully this only will delay me a week or two. But... yet... harumph.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
- Rent truck with lift gate and heavy duty furniture dolly
- Rent storage unit (and do the research entailed in that)
- Enlist burly men to help me move stuff
- Find two days to make sausage with Stein
- Get product from Oakland to make sausage with Stein
- Pickle the stuff I need to pickle
Apparently there is a place called Cresco I can rent the truck for a day and the lift dolly. But I need a cheap storage unit that is in between here and the restaurant. I can use it to store catering stuff, so it is worthwhile to get one for the longer term, especially if I decide to to a booth at the farmer's market any time soon.
My room mate is letting me borrow his car this week so I can get around with a giant stove in the back, but with both Brion and I leaving this weekend, I am not sure when or how I am going to coordinate the move of stuff. I desperately need to be better about making commitments on the weekends for the next few months and shift my mind set from a woman of leisure to restaurant owner, which let's be honest, are WAY different things...
Time to get to work pounding out my to-do list...
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
- Buy ad space for my ABC notification
- Meet with Chamber of Commerce and join
- Meet with Main St Martinez and join
- Have Lunch with Janosh
- Put my 30 day notice for ABC in the window, plus my "Hi, Glad to be coming to the neighborhood" on the door.
- Get finger printed at 1:30 over at the Sheriff's office
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
- I need to get fingerprinted and FBI scan
- Post the sign they gave me in my window for 30 days
- Send back an affidavit saying it is posted
- Have an interview where they outline ABC laws, which is then signed off on and sent back
- Sign off that there is no residentail housing withthin 600 ft of the premises (there isn't)
- A small packet of paperwork
- proof that I have posted in a public newspaper for three consecutive weeks of my intent to sell beer and wine
So tomorrow when I go to Martinez to meet with the Chamber of Commerce people to join the local Chamber of Commece and then the Martinez Gazette so I can register my intent thingie for three consecutive weeks, I will also post the 30 day notice sign in the window. I can also post my "Opening Soon" sign, which means I should also print out the informational flyer on what I do and post that in the window as well. I wish I had some better pictures of my food! But Esme is going to help with that on down the line a bit.
They gave me a list of local places that will do the finger printing and FBI scan thingie. So I will try to go get that done tomorrow as well... whew! The finger printing thingie runs from $25 to $40. Wow... there is SO much paperwork to be done to get the beer and wine thing and I totally blanked on the fact it was all in my name. I can do the transfer once the LLC process is totally complete (I've gotten thru the first part, which is registering the name and getting my file number). But this should shave 3 months off the time it would take me to get the ABC license and hopefully there will only be like a month of it in my name and I will up my business insurance to cover that. I need to figure out how to apply a Beer/Wine license to my catering. So far people have been happy to buy their own booze and wine and I've only needed to do the food. But it would be nice to be able to offer the service once I am actively paying attention to wine.
It always feels like there is not enough money to do anything on time or as well as I would like, but it (knock on wood) always seems to be just barely enough to keep things squeaking along.
Everyone I've talked to downtown seems so happy about someone moving in to the space. It really is such an awesome spot. I think just about anything would do well in the location, so I can't wait to see what people think of all the hand made charcuterie and other food that is made with a lot of love and care. I think I will watch Rattatouille again tonight and just... maybe just the last five minutes when he is on his roof top serving the rats and people at the end.
And Today I had REALLY good Lebanese food in downtown Pleasant Hill. Mezza Grill. It looks like a tiny Quiznos, with a Lebanese condiment bar and everything... but the food was just killer. I am a little sad he's doing it like a fast food place, the food is so much better than that. OH and he forgot to give us our fries... but I was so full of fantastic sticky rice and grilled lamb with killer humus and cucumber kefir sauce that who cared about fries? The green salad was one of the best mediterranean salads I've ever had, with like... these kind of dried tight little black olives in there and a really sticky herby dressing. Seriously SO good. And it was like $9.00 for a full plate of all this decadence. Sammy loved it too. LOL
We get to the counter to order and I list off all this stuff and the guy looks at Sam and basically asks him if he wants no veggies and spices on his food. Sam deadpans back, "My mom feeds us like real people, not Americans." (He is dead serious). The counter guy (who I suspect owns the place) and I burst into laughter. It was priceless.
Monday, April 4, 2011
- 1 full set of plans
- 3 set of the bathroom ventilation blueprints
- Approval from the Fire District
So I sent FedEx my files so they could make the proper copies, when and grabbed them on Sunday and then headed out to the Fire District for Contra Costa County this morning (Which is like walking distance from my house). I'd ordered an extra set of plans from FedEx for my own files, so I had two full plan sets, plus the bllueprints of the bathroom ventilation plan.
I got into the Fire District office with all my blueprints, my business folder (which has all of my approvals, permits etc up to date) and a checkbook. There was an older lady at the counter who was clearly the receptionist and I explained the Building Dept had given me some paperwork they were supposed to fill out. The petite fire inspector was talking to another client and I waited patiently for her to be done and come check out my stuff.
She told me I had to submit two plan copies (YAY! I had two with me!), and she stamped them over the counter, keeping one and giving me a stamped copy. I paid $430.00 (which includes the inspection). I them went back to the Building Dept and turned in the stamped copy from the Fire Dept, and the paperwork they gave me (but I didn't make myself a copy... head, desk, thump).
Sooooo... now I don't have a copy again.
Then I ran upstairs to the City Offices to file for my buisness license. For this process I needed:
- Federal Tax ID #
- State Tax ID #
- Resellers Permit #
- Fictitious name file #
- LLC name
I cannot stress enough to people to carry ALL of these numbers and proof of your compliance whenever you are dealing with governmental offices. I had to run downstairs to get the Building Dept and Planning to sign off on my business lisence, then they processed it on the spot.
The very nice lady with long hair who works behind the glass looked at me over the top of her spectacles and said, "You filled this out correctly." (pregnant pause)
Me, "Thanks!" (pregnant pause)
Me, "Is that unusual?"
Her. "Extremely. Very few people have the proper permits and licenses, and fewer still have them on hand when they come to do the paperwork."
Me (Beaming like a 2nd grader who just got a gold star by her name on the "Good Student Chart"), "COOL!"
So then Dave called just as I was leaving and said I should try to get my demolition permit, which I tried to do, but Don from Building Dept said it had to be done by the contractor or the building owner. Phooey on that! Oh well, things have been going so well, I can really only be enourmusly grateful this was my biggest hiccup today.
Then I met Mary for some Sushi and now I am just hanging out thinking... what is next?
Building Dept will be about two weeks, putting me around April 20th (but this can come back sooner), then... wow. Give a month (give or take a week or so) for the build out and a few weeks for food prep. Wow.
I also ordered the jerseys for Stein and I today, so hopefully they will be available in plenty of time. And my primary investor plans to fund this week (keeping fingers crossed) so we can get the fire supression permit going, which should be about 3 weeks.
Once again, wow. I cannot believe I have come so far. I mean... really really... it seems like the most impossible process... it IS so hard. And yet, things are miraculously, even if slowly, going forward. YAY!