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Health License Fee Causes a Stir
A fee for a temporary city of Cincinnati health department license has caused one food vendor to pull out of a popular west side art show. Some in the community are wondering why the same license is so much cheaper when purchased from the county's health department.
The fifth annual Westwood Art Show will be held September 14 on the Town Hall's grounds. The art show features the work of more than 60 artists.
"It's one of those things that really brings the community together," said organizer Jess Thayer. She is a potter who also has a booth in the show.
The art show has food and drinks for guests. But, this year, vendors were told they'd have to buy a temporary vendors license from the city of Cincinnati health department. The license costs $150.00 for the six-hour event. The same license costs just $23.60 down the street in Cheviot. That city's license is sold by the Hamilton Co. health department.
The disparity has raised eyebrows among some in Westwood. Mary Kuhl of the Westwood Civic Association said the manager of City BBQ decided the license fee was "cost prohibitive" and the restaurant wouldn't make enough of a profit at the art show if it had to pay $150 for the license.
"The city of Cincinnati is $150, Hamilton County $23.60. That's insane," said Mary Kuhl of the Westwood Civic Association. Kuhl added, "You are restricting the types of vendors that can come in be part of a wonderful day-long celebration in our community or any other community in the city of Cincinnati. It's outrageous."
The temporary license is the same type sold to vendors at the Taste of Cincinnati and Oktoberfest - but those events last several days.
In a statement to Local 12 News, Rocky Merz of the Cincinnati Health Department explained the $150.00 cost of the license:
"All food licenses fees are set pursuant to a state of Ohio cost methodology," Merz said. He added, "These standards do not make a distinction based on the length of an event, which is established by event organizers."
Merz also said the board of health approves the pricing of the licenses.
The Hamilton County health department explained why its fee is lower.
"We work very, very hard to keep our fees in line. We could certainly charge more if we felt it warranted but these are the kind of things we want businesses to participate," said Mike Samet.
To address the issue, organizers have brought in a mobile food truck, Cafe de Wheels to sell food at the art show. Other vendors have also voiced concern about the fee. Artists must also pay a $25.00 fee to the city to have a booth at the art show.
"It will all come together and it will be fabulous. Everybody will have a great day," Jess Thayer said.