How noncompliance may land a business in the gutter

A Massachusetts bowling alley owner is in a dispute with the Board of Health and local government over the requirement of a food permit. The owner does not think the few food items he dispenses necessitate a permit under the FDA’s code. Naturally, the Board of Health disagrees. This all stems from the fact that he sells just a few bottled drinks from a cooler, gives away free coffee and has a water fountain.

In December, after a jury found Mr. Couture had violated the state sanitary code and an order of the Board of Health by failing to comply with the permit requirement, Worcester Housing Court Judge Diana H. Horan ordered Mr. Couture to pay a fine of $7,500 to the town.

We don’t take sides in this type of dispute. Nevertheless, the takeaway for a licensing professional is crystal clear. When it comes to licensing, the devil is always in the (frequently contentious) details. Small food items such as snacks, bottled drinks or even coffee may require a food or health permit, even if a business is not a “food business” in any meaningful sense.

We ran a LicenseSuite report in Massachusetts and found a variety of food related licenses that might apply to a recreational facility similar to the one that’s now in a dispute with the Board of Health. If you’re lacking one of these permits, you can get fined or worse. Are all of your bases covered?