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City and County Launch Program to Cut Restaurant and Bar Opening Times

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, June 04, 2010, at 06:00PM
Restaurant Express Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Central City Association CEO Carol Schatz answers a question about the new Restaurant & Hospitality Express program.

In a move intended to spur new restaurant and bar openings -- along with their associated jobs and tax revenue -- the City and County yesterday joined the Central City Association in announcing a new program that streamlines inspections and permitting.

"Restaurant and Hospitality Express" is intended to cut the typical opening timeline to half of the 12 to 18 months it had previously taken.

That time can mean the difference between success and failure for a new establishment. Steve Springer, General Manager of the First & Hope Downtown Supper Club, told those gathered that he was spending $40,000 per week on staff and expenses while waiting for approval to open.

His establishment is one of eight to go through the new process, which came into effect right as the restaurant was nearing completion. "The change was sweeping and instant," he said, telling of same-day inspections and attentive service.

The impetus for the new program came in December, when the Central City Association organized a meeting with city departments and those who had experienced the pain of the existing process. "I brought in all the departments and then I brought in the restauranteurs," recalled Carol Schatz, CEO of the Central City Association. "I made [the departments] listen to the litany of horrors. And it was horrible."

That wasn't lost on the city officials in the audience.

"Their voices were like an eye opener to the agencies," said Ray Chan, Executive Officer of the city's Department of Building and Safety. Chan spearheaded the departmental coordination needed to get the new program in place.

The result is good news for those who like variety in their dining. Already, 25 more restaurants and bars are enrolled in the new program, which applies citywide.

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