Oakland, CA: Health Department Suspends Bites Off Broadway

Fist of Flour Pizza

By John Birdsall | EastBayExpress.com

There’s been another glitch for Bites Off Broadway, the weekly Friday night street-food pod in Temescal.

Yesterday, a senior health inspector informed organizer Karen Hester of Hesternet Productions that she was out of compliance with Alameda County’s mobile vending rules. Chris Ogbu told WTF that Hester never informed the Health Department about the weekly event, which began in June. Under the law, organizers are required to inform the county about temporary events like Bites and provide the Health Department with proof that participating vendors are current with their health permits.

Fist of Flour Pizza

There’s more. Besides food trucks, Bites regularly includes tented food booths (for pizza vendor Fist of Flour, for instance), which would have to be inspected separately after Hester obtained a separate single-event permit, the kind vendors at Art Murmur operate under.

Ogbu said his office only found out about the Friday night food pod recently, after one of his inspectors spotted a blog post about it. No word about which, if any, recurring vendors might be out of compliance with the Health Department. “If individual vendors are current with us there’s no problem, unless they have any violations,” Ogbu said. “Those who don’t have permits, they cannot operate unless they come here for their truck inspections and obtain them.” Until Hester shows proof of compliance, Bites Off Broadway is essentially shuttered.

Ogbu said he informed Hester about the violation yesterday, and has a Friday morning meeting scheduled with her.

This isn’t the first setback for Bites. Hester had originally hoped to site the event on the plaza in front of Oakland Technical High School, but failing permission from the school district, moved it to the corner of 45th Street and Broadway without obtaining a permit from the city (Oakland’s current mobile vending ordinance doesn’t allow events like Bites; the city is in the process of reviewing proposed changes). In July, Oakland police shut down Bites, citing unspecified neighbors’ complaints. In late July the event moved farther down 45th Street to the curb in front of Studio One, and became known as Bites Off Broadway.