Several restaurants could close for not paying permits

The Douglas County Health Department said it has closed 11 food and drink establishments for operating without a permit. (Photo: MG

OMAHA, NE (FOX42KPTM)- The Douglas County Health Department said it had to close 11 food and drink establishments for operating without a permit and more restaurants could close soon.

The department said it sent invoices to all food and drink establishments back in November and that payment was due in 30 days since the 2016 permits expired on Dec. 31.

A letter and an invoice was sent Jan. 13 notifying several establishments that their permits had expired and that they now also had to pay a late fee of $100.

About 50 restaurants still haven't paid and could face closure come Tuesday. The 11 restaurants that closed have since reopened after paying up.

Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said the department does not want to close the businesses, but that restaurant owners know the law and have brought the problem on themselves. “This is part of doing business: the operators know they must have a permit and it must be renewed every year by Dec. 31,” she said.

Operating without a permit is a misdemeanor, and violators are subject to a fine and jail time, or both, for each offense. Each day of operating without a permit is considered a separate offense.

“Our enforcement efforts began with a business that was late for the seventh year,” Dr. Pour stated. “We prioritized the closings starting with the establishments that have made a habit of being late renewing their permits.”

All businesses that provide food or drink to the public are subject to regulation and inspection as that activity creates a potential risk to the health of the public. The cost of the permits is used to implement those regulations.

It should be noted that about 95 percent of local food and drink establishments have paid their permits, but leaves about $36,000 to be collected. That figure includes 60 permits to be paid, including late fees, and late fees from 16 establishments that have paid their permits but omitted their late fees.

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