Doesn’t reading this San Diego Union-Tribune story make you happy you don’t live in San Diego County?
Around San Diego County, a hot, salty, buttered controversy has popped up.
Should hardware stores offer free bags of freshly popped popcorn?
While that may look like a warm, welcoming treat, free popcorn is a threat to public health â€” or so argue county officials. Last month, health inspectors raided La Jollaâ€™s Meanley & Son Hardware, warning that its old-fashioned red popcorn machine is a germy outlaw.
â€œThey explained we didnâ€™t have the proper permits,â€ said Bob Meanley, whose shop had handed out 30 to 40 bags every day for about 25 years.
To comply with the 1984 California Uniform Retail Food Facility Law, Meanley & Son would need to install a three-basin sink to clean and sterilize the popcorn popper. Also required: regular inspections, just like a restaurant.
Meanley declined and instead rolled the offending machine into storage. Thus ended a tradition he had started 25 years ago.
â€œI hate to take away something that our customers really like,â€ said Meanley, whose grandparents founded the hardware store in 1948. …
The county Department of Environmental Health, for its part, has a long tradition of cracking down on these scofflaws. Three years ago, inspectors cited Encinitasâ€™ Crown Ace Hardware and San Carlos True Value Hardware.
â€œThe Health Department came in,â€ said San Carlos True Value manager Danielle Matheny, â€œand told us if we wanted to continue giving away free popcorn and coffee weâ€™d have to install a bigger vent system, a bigger and better sink in the break room â€” a lot of rules and restrictions they put on us.â€
In both Encinitas and San Carlos, the stores dropped the practice. Inspectors so far have ignored Paytonâ€™s, but El-Hajj figures itâ€™s just a matter of time.
â€œI feel sad,â€ she said, â€œthat some of the old traditions we have become so regulated.â€