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Retail Food

The Health Department is responsible for inspecting and regulating any establishment serving food, whether it's a restaurant or a temporary food establishment.

Types of food service establishments
Opening a new food service establishment
Opening a temporary food establishment
Dealing with emergencies
Frequently asked questions

Types of food service establishments
A food service establishment is defined in the Kentucky Food Establishment Act as any fixed or mobile commercial establishment that engages in the preparation and serving of ready-to-eat foods in portions to the consumer, including, but not limited to:

Restaurants Sandwich shops Roadside stands
Coffee shops Bars Tea rooms
Soda fountains Short order cafes Cafeterias
Taverns Catering kitchens Luncheonettes
Cocktail lounges Commissaries Grills
Night clubs Industrial feeding establishments Or similar places in which food is prepared for sale or service on the premises or elsewhere with or without charge

It does include food vending machines, establishments serving beverages only in single service or original containers or stores which only cut, slice and prepare cold-cut sandwiches for individual consumption.

A temporary food establishment is defined in the Kentucky Food Establishment Act as any food service establishment which operates at a fixed location for a period of time, not to exceed 14 consecutive days.

Opening a new retail food establishmentA food inspector checks food temperatures
Retail food establishments in Kentucky must meet certain basic requirements in order to begin operating. See a timeline for this process. The steps for meeting those requirements are as follows:

Facility design approval: Facilities must be approved by the Health Department before a permit to operate can be issued. For new and extensively altered establishments or those that have not previously been permitted as a retail food establishment, plan drawings are required to be submitted for approval prior to construction, alteration or use of the facility. Learn more.
Permit to operate: Retail food establishments in Kentucky may not operate until a permit has been obtained. In Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties permits may be secured by submitting an application for permit and the required fee to the Health Department. Permits to operate are issued following receipt of the application with fee and passage of a facility inspection.  

Food service manager certification: Within 60 days of receiving a permit to operate, food service establishments must have a certified food service manager on duty at all times that foods are being prepared and served. Learn more about the certification classses.

Opening a temporary food establishment
Temporary food service establishments in Kentucky (such as booths at festivals), unless specifically exempted, must obtain a permit to operate and be inspected by the Health Department prior to opening. Those meeting the requirements are issued a temporary food permit. Please note: Temporary food permits are valid for 14 days at one location and may not be renewed for 30 days. Applications for permits should be submitted to the Health Department directly or through the event organizer at least two weeks prior to the event. Completed applications should be sent to Food Program Manager, Northern Kentucky Health Department, 610 Medical Village Drive, Edgewood, KY 41017.

Dealing with emergencies
When emergency situations occur that affect the ability to operate, such as fire, extended power outages and water service interruptions, the establishment should suspend its operations and notify the Health Department. For water service interruptions resulting in water supply emergencies, establishments must follow these guidelines until the water supply emergency is lifted. For power supply interruptions, follow these guidelines.

Frequently asked questions
I have a concern about sanitation or food preparation at a Northern Kentucky restaurant. What should I do?
The Health Department will investigate any complaints about sanitation in a restaurant or food contamination. Please call 859.341.4151 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday or email. Please note that it may be a few days before your complaint will be investigated. Often times, incidents causing concern in restaurants are isolated or can be easily corrected.

Are restaurant workers required to wear gloves when preparing food?
Glove use is not necessarily required when preparing food. If there is minimal hand contact with the food, gloves are not required. If food is handled directly, there must be a barrier in place; the food handler can either wear gloves or use tongs, spatula, etc.

How often should restaurant workers change gloves?
Gloves should be changed regularly, especially between tasks. If a restaurant worker is not wearing gloves, he should wash his hands frequently.

Are restaurant workers required to wear hair nets when preparing food?
Some type of hair restraint is required for anyone preparing food, either a visor, hat, hairnet, barrettes or pony tail.

I already have a food establishment permit for this year. How do I renew it for next year?
Food permits are good for the calendar year.  If you have an existing food establishment, you should automatically get a renewal application, typically in the fall. Please note that food permit fees increased in the fall of 2015, and the new fees will be effective in renewals going out in October 2015.

I'm opening my restaurant late in the year. Is the permit fee pro-rated?
Unfortunately food permit fees are not pro-rated. The fee varies between $120 and $290 depending upon the number of seats in the establishment, whether or not it has a drive through window and whether or not it engages in catering of food.

How long can my temporary food permit last?
Temporary food establishment permits may only last for 14 days. If you would like to operate a temporary food establishment for longer, you must either apply for a permanent permit or close for 30 days and then re-open with a new temporary permit.

I would like to open a food-based business in my home. What should I do?
In general, home-based businesses (such as bakers or caterers) are prohibited. For a home food business to be permitted, the kitchen where the food is prepared must be separated from the rest of the living quarters with solid walls or doors. The kitchen may only be used for the business.

The reason a food service establishment must be separated from a private home is because foods prepared by a business must be able to be monitored as much as possible by the Health Department. If the kitchen facility is also used for private living purposes, it is difficult to monitor the conditions under which foods are prepared. Commercial food service operation may mix, overlap or intersperse with private activities or living practices which may not be consistent with other requirements of the Kentucky Food Service Code. If you have more questions about home-based businesses, please the Health Department at 859.341.4151, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday-Friday or by email.