Doctors Inn owners feel Environmental Health has handed them a conundrum

Eric McCarthy
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Could be the last year for their private dining room

TYNE VALLEY --  A Tyne Valley couple who have been operating a private dining facility out of their home for more than 30 years feel they have run into a conundrum with the Environmental Health Department.

Paul and Jean Offer were initially advised by an Environmental Health officer last month that they could no longer provide a private dining service in their home because there was no clear separation between their public food service and their daily living service.

Essentially, they prepare their own meals in the same kitchen that they use to prepare meals for their guests.

Environmental Health subsequently agreed to allow the Offers to continue with their private dining room until October, but the couple is not ready to draw the curtain on their service just yet.

“I can see the Department of Health’s stance on this, but, there’s that word called common sense, which there seems to be a great lack of in a lot of cases,” Paul Offer lamented.

The couple notes that if they were still operating a bed and breakfast out of their home they would be allowed to serve meals to their overnight guests, but not to members of the travelling public who are not staying with them.

Their official letter on the Department’s ruling arrived on the same day that they received their sticker from Where to Eat in Canada. “I call that a conundrum” Jean commented.

And just days after being advised of Environmental Health’s ruling, the Offers’ kitchen passed an inspection allowing it to continue to prepare foods like jams, jellies and pickles for the booth they staff at the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market. Jean said she considers that a conundrum, too.

“It is a person’s private home. There can be considerable traffic,” Joe Bradley, Manager of Environmental Health, said in explaining why the Department seeks a clear separation between daily living and food service facilities. He acknowledged there is an exemption in place which allows bed and breakfast facilities to serve their guests without adhering to that separation, but stressed that does not apply to private dining.

Children, pets and bringing in matter on clothing and footwear from a farming environment, he noted, are all sources of potential contaminants.

“If they were simply operating as a B&B and serving food to their overnight guests only, they would be exempted, but if they continue to offer the dining experience that they are now, we would have to consider them a dining room,” he stressed.

Bradley acknowledges the new regulations are still only in draft form, but he said the department, through the Public Health Act, could have stuck with its original order to close the dining room immediately, as issued in May. Because of advertising and other expenses the Offers already incurred, he said his department agreed to allow them to continue operating until October.

The couple accepts only one dinner reservation per day and require at least 24 hours notice. That, Jean said, is so they can obtain fresh ingredients for their group of one to six people. They served 50 meals last year, she said. They provide many of their own herbs and vegetables.

Lynden Ellis has been a regular customer at the Offers’ Doctor’s Inn dining room. He reacted angrily to news that they might not be allowed to continue their operation after this year.

“I was just sick when I heard that,” he said.

“That is a really, really good place to eat. Anytime people come home I try to take them,” he said, explaining he reserves a table at least twice a year.

Ellis said he is not concerned about the meal being prepared in the same kitchen the Offers use for preparing their own meals. “Why would you be concerned? You can see exactly what they’re doing. Everything is just hunky-dory.”

While the Offers indicate they hope to appeal the ruling, Bradley said there is no actual appeal process under the Public Health Act. He did indicate, though, that his department is certainly open to further discussion on the matter.

The Offers acknowledge they could get around the new regulations by getting back into the bed and breakfast business, but know that would mean they could only serve their B&B guests.

Organizations: Department of Health

Geographic location: Canada, Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Chad
    June 12, 2014 - 08:16

    I work as a Health and Safety Co-ordinate and the fact that you are bothering people who serve food out of their home where people willingly book 24 hours in advance and obviously want to go bad enough they take the risk of eating in someone's private resident and paying them for it.. concerns me. When I drive by contractors on every street corner breaking safety regulations that might leave them dead. I always hear from contractors " oh that's just the new hype at wcb, someone gets injured badly and all the sudden they remember they wrote these law's and start enforcing them again". So well welders are still inhaling toxic fumes, people working at heights not wearing equipment in the wide open, companies forcing there workers to break law's every day and your worried about an older couple who have been preparing fresh good chemical free food for customers for over thirty years out of their home cause there is a law you probably just remembered you had. Why did it take so long for wcb to come to this conclusion and how come WCB is so reactive with their law enforcement. You want to make a difference start handing out fines to the companies really putting people at risk. Start going after the small things that cause huge accidents after going unnoticed for so long.

  • kyle
    June 12, 2014 - 04:10

    "Bradley acknowledges the new regulations are still only in draft form..." What Bradley is saying that he does not enforce regulations, he, a God, enforces, period. Let me disabuse him of his status as a deity, that is not what he is.

  • UPWESTER
    June 11, 2014 - 21:04

    The Dept. of Health should be concerned with these greasy spoons and Legions serving chicken wings in a fryer that takes seven minutes.Go after the lobster suppers and all the community halls that serve vile food, not someone like the Offers who have a wonderful establisment and have been doing it safely for 30 years.