Gimme shelter, with sprinkles
Last week, we spoke with David Robert, former owner of Marble Slab Creamery in south Davis, about his absurd encounter with the city-planning department seven years ago. According to Robert, not only was he required to install two restrooms in his four-table ice-cream shop at a cost of $30,000, but the Quiznos sandwich restaurant next door was allowed to open a month later with only one. As Robert explains, that was just one of several puzzling incidents.
When Robert submitted architectural drawings to convert his leased retail space into an ice-cream shop, they included plans for a floor of 3-inch red, square ceramic tiles, common in restaurants. The Yolo County Health Department declared that such flooring was unacceptable and told Robert to install commercial-grade seamless linoleum that extended 6 inches up each wall. Otherwise, they said, Marble Slab would not pass inspection. Robert did as instructed. A few months later, on the eve of its grand opening, Marble Slab underwent a final inspection. Fail, and the opening would have to be postponed. This time, the health inspector was joined by the dairy inspector, a real curmudgeon.
Nervous and excited to be opening after months of hard work, Robert welcomed the inspectors into the store. Both female, the dairy inspector was tall and thin, the health inspector rather squat. They flashed their clipboards and walked into the back, where gleaming stainless-steel machines were busy preparing ice cream for the big day. The dairy inspector immediately began frowning and stamping her foot.
“What’s this?” she barked, pointing to the floor.
“That’s commercial-grade seamless linoleum,” Robert said with pride. “It goes 6 inches up the wall.”
Robert was stunned. Not acceptable? She proceeded to rattle off a list of accepted floorings, one of which was … the 3-inch red, ceramic tiles the health inspector had nixed.
“Really?” Robert said, gathering himself. “That’s amazing! That’s what we initially had, but the health department said we couldn’t use it, and the only thing they approved was commercial-grade seamless linoleum!”
Robert had revealed the two departments to be almost comically at odds. Now his eyes played pingpong between the inspectors.
“So which is it?” he demanded.
The dairy inspector was nonplussed.
“That’s your one gimme,” she said.
Later, while examining the display case and mixing station in the front of the store, the health inspector turned to Robert. “I know you mix the ice cream on this,” she said, pointing to the strip of smooth rock from which the franchise took its name. “Well, what’s preventing a child from reaching all the way over the counter and putting their hand on the sterilized slab?”
For Robert, this was preposterous. After all he had gone through, now if felt like the inspectors were just making things up to fail him.
“Hopefully, the parents will keep this kid from climbing over the sneeze guard to touch the slab,” he answered. “But I have a question for you: Dos Coyotes has salsa jars just sitting out on some ice in the customer area, wide open, with no sneeze protection. What’s preventing a kid—the same kid who just got done climbing over my sneeze guard to put his hand on my sterile slab—from jamming his hand in the salsa?”
“You’re not Dos Coyotes.”