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Express Program Touted for Success in Speeding Restaurants and Hospitality

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, June 30, 2011, at 08:00AM
Restaurant Express Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Central City Association CEO Carol Schatz answers a question about the Restaurant & Hospitality Express program at its June 2010 launch.

The city's year-old effort to cut in half the time it takes to open a restaurant was touted as a success on Wednesday as speakers urged the City Council to use the program as a model for cutting planning times in other sectors.

The Restaurant and Hospitality Express program was launched in June of 2010 after the Central City Association brought the city's Planning and Building and Safety departments together to hear horror stories from business owners who had navigated the 12 to 18 month process it took even experienced operators to open.

"Almost no restaurants were able to open on-time before this program was launched," Ray Chan of Building and Safety told the council's planning committee.

Over the last year, Chan said, 60 restaurants have opened via the new program, and more than one hundred are in the planning or construction process.

Several speakers told the committee that the program's success was also its biggest weakness. The influx of applications has left its few staff members swamped, and speakers asked that more staff be assigned to shepherding businesses through the planning process.

Councilmember Paul Koretz testified that he hoped to see the program expanded as a model for how permitting works throughout the city. "I'm hopeful that we can learn from the success of this program and use it as a prototype and paradigm for a program that helps all small businesses," he told the committee.

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