Permit pileup: Following the paper trail for Asheville’s growing food economy
(Mountain XPress) Nicknames like “Beer City USA,” “Foodtopia” and “Paris of the South” all acknowledge Asheville’s increasing significance as a food and drink haven. But for city development officials, keeping pace with the permitting needs of a burgeoning food industry has been a hard bite to swallow. A certificate of occupancy must be obtained and displayed prominently in commercial establishments, but for some restaurateurs, the legal document also serves as a battle scar of sorts. In business settings, the CO states that a building is fit to be occupied by a certain number of customers, and this human-safety aspect makes it more troublesome to acquire than most food and alcohol licenses. In the simplest terms, the quest for a CO consists of two phases — the planning stage and the build-out — and the approval of both can require smaller prerequisite permits and months of collaboration between city officials and a restaurateur’s team. “We had a very difficult time in the permit process during plan review,” says Hole doughnut shop co-owner Caroline Whatley. Typically, plan reviews are facilitated by a single reviewer, but in Whatley’s case, a sudden reassignment added more than 20 new items to Hole’s to-do list, tagging an extra month onto the plans-approval process.
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