How to Open a Restaurant 101

Hey Dishers, I’d like to introduce you to our newest guest blogger. Her name is Gina Campisi. You’ve had her family’s pizza and soon, if she manages to maintain her sanity, you will be able to meet Gina in person at her soon-to-open restaurant, Fedora, at One Arts Plaza. I asked Gina to give us some insight into what it takes to get a new restaurant open these days. She’s young (25), cute, funny, and she swears. So grab a bag of candy and take a break. Here’s Gina:

PERMIT ME TO HAVE A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN

By Gina Campisi

Permits. There is simply no way to open—or even think about opening–a restaurant, roadside hotdog shack, or, at this point, a lemonade stand without numerous applications, searching for obscure offices in basements of dank, armpit-smelling buildings, obtaining signatures from all forms of officious officials, and all in the name of permitting.

The first step is to obtain the “Retail Food Operations and Retail Food Establishment Permit”, which is a simple click away online….after answering such heady questions as, “Will the business sell aquatic products for consumption, bait, and/or Texas Finfish?” and “What’s the capital of Rhode Island,” you begin to think that you are almost to the end of the line, only to find out that you are not tall enough to ride the ride. And I know I am now beginning to get a taste of the miasma of bulls**t that a proud restaurant owner must swallow. And it tastes a lot like Finfish. Texas Finfish.

Next step, the TABC. That would be the TEXAS ALCOHOL and BEVERAGE COMMISSION. Sounds like someone you want to party with, right? Hmmm, Alcohol and Beverages! I’ll bring the mix tapes, you bring the guys from the TABC!

My partner and I go down to the office and pick up the “application” with her assurances that “we don’t need to spend the money on having someone filling this out for us.” Cue the unicorns and rainbows! It’s all going to be great! And we save money!

Well, 10 hours later, and 30,000 questions to bored and pissed secretary in the TABC office later, we got through the first 10 pages of the application of biblical proportions. Next, we are off what I think was the State Comptrollers office for signatures. And then, off to the City Secretary/Building Inspectors office for more signatures and a document that is beginning to look like the head cheerleaders high school yearbook at this point.

There is just one thing we figured out after they laughed at us at our last stop: You can’t get all those signatures until you have received a builders permit for your location. And apparently, we didn’t have that yet. Hell, the only thing we had at this point were a few cocktail napkins with some doodles of walls and tables, and what looked to be a meatball stain.

A quick phone call to the designer and architect rights this wrong immediately. Two weeks later we are still waiting. Another quick phone call to the designer and architect. Three weeks later we are still waiting.

Finally, plans in hand, albeit stained with tears, we get the signatures we need, Which then allowed us to get the signatures we need from the inspectors office.

And now, we have everything we need to Turn. In.Our. Application.

WRONG.

It was sent back.

We filled it out INCORRECTLY.

So what did I do? I hired someone to fix it. Yep, it took me a whole month to figure out we should have spent the money and hired someone to help us from the very beginning. Oh, and by the way, if you hire someone they do all the running around and obtain the signatures for you! Look at me! I’m cleaning my oven, arguing with contractors, and having my TABC application done at the same time! Moral of the story is I must be nuts to be opening a restaurant, or even a lemonade stand for that matter.

Update: Austin office returned the application again. Apparently, I put my fathers’ nickname, Corky, on the app instead of his real name Carlo. They are wondering who this Corky is, and why he is on the application. I am still wondering why I want to open a restaurant.

To be continued…

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