New permit helps food vendors during pandemic |

New permit helps food vendors during pandemic

By Elise Gonzales-Sahota | Special to The Union

It is no surprise that this last year of the pandemic has devastated the small business food industry and has forced food business owners to consistently recreate their whole way of operating. From open to closed, partial occupancy to no dine-in service, food businesses have had to be extremely creative and flexible in order to survive.

Caterers and food event operators have really felt the harsh reality of COVID with limited events in very small capacities. The Nevada County Environmental Health Department decided to take action and create new opportunities with more flexible permits to service these local small businesses. With this in mind, they created a new permit for these food vendors called the “Platform Kitchen Operation.”

Environmental Health Director Amy Irani said, “The PKO process came about when Environmental Health staff member Nicole Johnson was researching different models in other California cities and counties. The PKO offers an option to our food culinary entrepreneurs to provide their product safely to the public and offers existing food facilities such as Temporary Food Facilities, the ability to work and gain revenue. Ms. Johnson in her research came across a Ghost Kitchen operational model, and we expounded upon this model to create the Platform Kitchen Operation or PKO. The really wonderful opportunity that a PKO offers to our culinary community is a chance to share diverse culinary talents and not have to come up with significant start up monies. By utilizing an existing retail food establishment, the PKO operator can advertise and showcase their talents and in turn our hope is they are very successful to one day branching out into their own retail food facility.”

Each PKO permit holder works out of an existing commercial kitchen. As one of the first PKO permit holders, SPICED chef and owner Elise Gonzales-Sahota operates out of the “Mason Jar Meals To Go” commissary kitchen in downtown Nevada City and schedules her operating time in conjunction with other food entrepreneurs.

Gonzales-Sahota said, “In the beginning of March 2020, I was just about to launch a new food delivery program in cooperation with some of our local schools, but as the pandemic started and our schools closed, my contracts went awry. After learning the new norm, and adjusting to the ‘new life’, I have finally launched The SPICED food club with a Platform Kitchen Operation Permit. This new permit allows me to operate on a small scale easily and helps me implement a business model that will actually work within the pandemic era and beyond.”

This permit model also helps keep our commercial kitchens alive and healthy by creating alternative streams of revenue for commercial kitchens.

Commissary Owner Shannon Byrd said, “This new permit is so great for commercial kitchens with a grab-and-go model like mine. It helps with keeping overhead costs of running a commissary kitchen manageable, while making it affordable for all food vendors to get started.”

With COVID creating a consistently changing business atmosphere, it is great for the laws and permits to congruently grow with the business environment.

Elise Gonzales-Sahota is the owner of SPICED.


You can find The SPICED food club at, or come try their coconut lentils from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at Crumbunny, 405 Commercial St., Nevada City, for a COVID-friendly pop-up.


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