Doctor's Inn dining room may close after Health department warning

Eric McCarthy
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Jean Offer whips up a salad for her husband Paul. The kitchen where she prepares the meal is the same one that she uses to prepare meals for guests to the couple's private dining room. Environmental Health has advised them they will not be able to continue that practice after this year.

TYNE VALLEY --  A Tyne Valley dining room that's been listed in Where to Eat in Canada may be closing down in October because of rules that differ between serving guests of a bed and breakfast and serving food to people who are not overnight guests.

Paul and Jean Offer have been operating a private dining facility out of their home for more than 30 years. For many of those years, it ran in conjunction with their bed and breakfast operation, The Doctor's Inn.

The Offers were initially advised by an environmental health officer last month that they could no longer provide a private dining service in their home because there was no clear separation between their public food service and their daily living service.

Essentially, they prepare their own meals in the same kitchen that they use to prepare meals for their guests.

Environmental Health subsequently agreed to allow the Offers to continue with their private dining room until October, but the couple is not ready to draw the curtain on their service just yet.

“I can see the Department of Health’s stance on this, but, there’s that word called common sense, which there seems to be a great lack of in a lot of cases,” Paul Offer lamented.

The couple notes that if they were still operating a bed and breakfast out of their home they would be allowed to serve meals to their overnight guests, but not to members of the travelling public who are not staying with them.

Their official letter on the department’s ruling arrived on the same day that they received their sticker from Where to Eat in Canada.

“I call that a conundrum” Jean commented.

And just days after being advised of Environmental Health’s ruling, the Offers’ kitchen passed an inspection allowing it to continue to prepare foods like jams, jellies and pickles for the booth they staff at the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market. Jean said she considers that a conundrum, too.

“It is a person’s private home. There can be considerable traffic,” Joe Bradley, manager of environmental health, said in explaining why the department seeks a clear separation between daily living and food service facilities.

He acknowledged there is an exemption in place which allows bed and breakfast facilities to serve their guests without adhering to that separation, but stressed that does not apply to private dining.

Children, pets and bringing in matter on clothing and footwear from a farming environment, he noted, are all sources of potential contaminants.

“If they were simply operating as a B&B and serving food to their overnight guests only, they would be exempted, but if they continue to offer the dining experience that they are now, we would have to consider them a dining room,” he stressed.

Bradley acknowledges the new regulations are still only in draft form, but he said the department, through the Public Health Act, could have stuck with its original order to close the dining room immediately, as issued in May. Because of advertising and other expenses the Offers already incurred, he said his department agreed to allow them to continue operating until October.

The couple accepts only one dinner reservation per day and require at least 24 hours notice. That, Jean said, is so they can obtain fresh ingredients for their group of one to six people. They served 50 meals last year, she said. They provide many of their own herbs and vegetables.

Lynden Ellis has been a regular customer at the Offers’ Doctor’s Inn dining room. He reacted angrily to news that they might not be allowed to continue their operation after this year.

“I was just sick when I heard that,” he said.

“That is a really, really good place to eat. Anytime people come home I try to take them,” he said, explaining he reserves a table at least twice a year.

Ellis said he is not concerned about the meal being prepared in the same kitchen the Offers use for preparing their own meals.

“Why would you be concerned? You can see exactly what they’re doing. Everything is just hunky-dory.”

While the Offers indicate they hope to appeal the ruling, Bradley said there is no actual appeal process under the Public Health Act. He did indicate, though, that his department is certainly open to further discussion on the matter.

The Offers acknowledge they could get around the new regulations by getting back into the bed and breakfast business, but know that would mean they could only serve their B&B guests.

Organizations: Doctor's Inn, Department of Health

Geographic location: TYNE VALLEY, Canada, Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Peter
    June 12, 2014 - 20:51

    I see justin replied to one of my comments... I'm waiting now for his second comment... (if it even makes any sense)....

    • justin
      June 13, 2014 - 00:59

      Any truth to the fact that alcohol was also sold by this establishment? The owner wants to promote the idea of following the rules but he only seems to want to follow them when they are suitable to him. I doubt very much if many people would be comfortable just going into someone's house and having a meal and then also having to pay for it and then finding out the place is not even inspected for cleanliness. If this guy wants to run a business let him follow the same rules as the other restaurants in his community. What is so difficult for him to understand. Just another person who thinks the rules should only apply to him when it is convenient to him.

  • Peter
    June 12, 2014 - 20:21

    To put it bluntly.. I don't have time for stupid.... never have had, never will have ... and when a college kid, UPEI graduate, or anyone else can't count change back from a buck without a calculator,and thinks they know it all, I consider them stupid. Generally speaking... this means anyone 40 years or younger that has never been taught to think is in this group. (Robert Ghiz just turned 40). Joe Bradley?.. I don't know how old he is, but I would think he takes orders from Robert Ghiz.... (snicker) (remember, Robert can't think) (IMO).. seems to me Wes Sheridan (Financial wizard that put us $BILLIONS in debt) calls the shots ... but he's a "banker" .. the very group that brags "$Billions" in profit by charging you to have money in "their bank" remember that?

    • Lisa
      June 13, 2014 - 06:50

      *clapping wildly*......Best posts ever! Keep writing.....

    • don
      June 13, 2014 - 07:36

      by the way where is wes? and no one in government does anything without the supreme ruler the head bully ghiz. and the regs are a little strange i do not see how the Public Health Act is connected to Department of Health. something smells in this deal? but i guess with no appeal set up in the public health it covers them. i wonder what/who is behind this? and they talk about health well how many places in ch'town has been fined etc under the dof ? now how many times has paul been closed or fined under the dof?

  • Peter
    June 12, 2014 - 20:04

    As I scroll through all the postings here, I realize I have more posts, tahn anyone else... and the question in my mind is ... "why"? ... so please.. let me answer that question.... ( next post)

  • Peter
    June 12, 2014 - 19:46

    Let me tell it as it is, please ... I'm a transplant to PEI. I'm from "away". I've been here for almost 25 years, and this is "home" for me.... But .. years ago, in a different province , I was ask about PEI, to which I replied ... 1-800-565-7421.. (remember the jingle?) I said this to a friend.. who later visited PEI and mailed me a letter ( NOT " email" it didn't exist then) about how much her and her hubby enjoyed the "island". It was places like "The Doctor's Inn" that made them feel so welcome. Joe Bradley and the "guv'mint" have lost sight of this.... all they see is $$$ and it's killing the "Island". But people like Ghiz, Sheridan, Bradley and justin can't see it. College kids, I would guess.

  • Peter
    June 12, 2014 - 19:30

    justin ... Have you ever been to The Doctor's Inn? Do you have any idea what you're talking about?

  • Think it through
    June 12, 2014 - 18:25

    A simple solution. Sell an overnight stay with a free meal. Set the price to cover the cost of the meal. It won't be the fault of the innkeepers if the guest(s) do not wish to spend the night! Win, Win!

  • david
    June 12, 2014 - 17:56

    If this man wants to operate a restaurant then they should have to follow the same rules as other restaurants in the area. This who story sounds more like someone who knew the rules and openly decided to break them and when he gets caught he complains to the media and looks for public sympathy. No difference then anyone else who gets caught breaking the law and then pleads ignorance or wants the laws changed because he is special. If he wants to operate a restaurant let him follow the same rules as every other operator. Just another guy who wants to complain and hopes the media will print his story. I would expect if get caught breaking some other law he would be doing the same thing.

  • Peter
    June 12, 2014 - 17:08

    Bradley acknowledges the new regulations are still only in draft form, but he said the department, through the Public Health Act, could have stuck with its original order to close the dining room immediately, as issued in May. Because of advertising and other expenses the Offers already incurred, he said his department agreed to allow them to continue operating until October. Dear Mr. Bradley ... After October, this "establishment" (in your mind) must be shut down because it poses a danger to the public. Now.. I have to ask, if it's such a danger, why is it not being shutdown immediately? AND .. .if it isn't being shutdown immediately, then why is it a danger? I suspect that because it isn't a B&B, or a "Restaurant", it's outside the Government definition of business establishments when it come to "fees due" "taxes due", TIAPEI fees due ... etc etc etc. In plain english, money money money for the Guvmint and it's chosen few. (IMO)...

  • Peter
    June 12, 2014 - 16:28

    “I can see the Department of Health’s stance on this, but, there’s that word called common sense, which there seems to be a great lack of in a lot of cases,” Paul Offer lamented. Dear paul ... IMO, it's not just the Department of Health that suffers from lakka.... I think the whole Ghiz Government suffers from it.

  • Peter
    June 12, 2014 - 16:23

    IMO .. anyone, including Joe Bradley, that wants to close this place is welcome to go eat at any of the outdoor tables (more are coming) in Charlottetown, where they can eat and enjoy dust dirt, garbage and debris being blown on, over, and around their food. No doubt their food will be prepared in a clean "inspected" kitchen, but once it leaves the kitchen it's prepared in ... well ... I hope they enjoy... especially Joe Bradley!

  • Peter
    June 12, 2014 - 14:44

    Children, pets and bringing in matter on clothing and footwear from a farming environment, he noted, are all sources of potential contaminants. Yep... even in B&B's, McDonalds, Burger King, and any other place where food is or can be served ... even in my home where guests, kids and animals are always welcome. Oh Yes.... Sobeys and Superstore as well!

  • Peter
    June 12, 2014 - 14:31

    justin ... I eat in my kitchen most of the time, as do MILLIONS of other Canadians. Remind me to never invite you to dinner at my place. Just about everyone else is welcome. PS.. a home is a private residence, not a public restaurant!

    • justin
      June 12, 2014 - 16:33

      Peter you make my point exactly. This is a home a private residence and NOT a public restaurant. That is the problem if they are charging for the meals then it is a Public Restaurant and NOT a private residence.

    • Peter
      June 12, 2014 - 19:26

      justin ... in your mind only.... EXCEPT .. if you're "guv'mint" and want to find a way to extract more "$" from hardworking people in PEI who only want to enhance PEI's , Courtesy, Down to Earth Hospitality, Honesty, and Genuine "Welcome Neighbour" attitude, that all Islanders possesss, except Government. Need I remind you that Robert Ghiz is of the generation that" can't count change back from a buck without a calculator, and don't know how to think" generation?

  • Mario
    June 12, 2014 - 13:26

    Ok, so you get a meal free, but the cover is the price of the meal. Or with every purchase of fresh vegetables you get invited to dinner. Dont shut down Paul , the people will support you. If we can eat chicken from the side of the road in Dominican and live im sure this is fine.

  • justin
    June 12, 2014 - 13:13

    How many people who really want to be eating in someone's kitchen. What is the problem here they can't be serving operating without approved clean kitchen. It is crazy that they would think they can operate with a restaurant with some kind of approval and inspections. These are the kind of places that people get sick from eating in. If they want to be in the restaurant business they should have to follow the same guidelines as any other restaurant. Heck even the small dairy bars have to be inspected and clean. Why would these people think they can shutdown their B&B and still keep their kitchen open and sell food to people. Why is this even a story? No difference if I decided to start serving food from my own kitchen and wasn't following and of the guidelines and was shutdown by the Dept of Health. Same rules for everyone it is no brainer and it is COMMON SENSE that they should have follow the same rules as others.

    • The Observer from Stratford
      June 12, 2014 - 15:13

      Their kitchen is clean. However that's not the issue. The issue is that they do all their cooking for both themselves and their guests in the same kitchen. (read the frigging story next time). That's a no no according to the laws of this "free" land of ours..

  • Tammy Ferguson
    June 12, 2014 - 12:34

    I'm disappointed but not shocked. It is getting so difficult to run a small business in Nova Scotia, and not a lot of opportunity here. our municapal and government bylaws that lack common sense our putting so many businesses and people out of work it's sad. I think Government agencies need to start using case by case logic when it comes to small businesses, after all they are constantly stating small business is the back bone of our province.(come on people use your heads) it's a very sad day for business in Nova Scotia!!!!!!!!!!

  • CarolR
    June 12, 2014 - 12:27

    They passed an inspection and will be allowed to sell picked foods and jams! Foods which need to be stored for periods of time and have a much higher chance of growing dangerous bacteria. If they passed that inspection, then of course their kitchen is clean and well ordered enough to cook up and serve fresh food, which doesn't have the time to deteriorate. They buy or grow, local, fresh produce, and cook it in a kitchen which has already passed inspections. What is the problem? Where is the common sense?

  • The Observer from Stratford
    June 12, 2014 - 09:05

    The trouble with regulating everything to the nth degree is that there is no room for flexibility. That's difference between a Napoleonic style code of laws/regulations chiseled in stone and the English Common Law system which is open to interpretation and accommodation to common sense and common usage. We had the latter until a certain PM changed this country. This is just another example of the mess, in this case at the local level, he created.

  • Vern
    June 12, 2014 - 09:03

    I survived years of school picnics, church camps, bagged lunches and great B&B with no ill consequence. The Nanny state is politicized to such an extent that kids are not allowed outside to play and experience life. I support local home based businesses that have more control over QA than large industrial based producers whose failures have far broader risks to health and wellbeing of consumers.

  • What A Farce
    June 12, 2014 - 08:58

    What a farce . There must be a good liberal wanting to start a dining room with government money . Operating for over 30 years & now this . Like I said - what a farce - the government can screw up anything they touch . Thank goodness they can't get at the Lord's Prayer LOL