A sink, a health inspector, and some confusion over state regulations were all reasons Roseburg Salsa Co. closed its restaurant late last year, according to owners of the company.

“We were trying to grow too fast too soon,” said co-owner Terrance Bradford. After selling its first order in 2014, the business grew to sell its salsas in 27 stores across Oregon. In March 2017, Roseburg Salsa opened as a restaurant on Jackson Street, where it still produces salsa.

“We were four-strong and we did everything from managing the business to production to marketing and quality control, but we also had the restaurant and distribution,” Bradford said.

The company’s salsas were taken out of stores in September to give the staff a chance to re-set.

The restaurant closed in November following expensive updates to get the building up to code, according to Bradford.

He said before the team rented the building in May 2017, the rental ads had claimed it was already certified to operate as a restaurant. But an inspector with the Oregon Environmental Health Association, Angela Scott, informed the staff they had to make a few changes before the building could be certified.

The company had to pay about $8,000 to get the building up to code with changes, including adding three sinks because the inspector was concerned about staff members carrying a mop bucket up and down a half-flight of stairs, or having to walk too far to reach a hand sink.

Though Scott did not respond to multiple calls and emails, Caroline Regan, the environmental health supervisor, said adding the sink for mops is a fairly new requirement in the OEHA’s food code, and she said adding more hand sinks makes it safer and more efficient for employees to be able to reach a sink.

Bradford said there were issues with Scott, whom he said undermined the business and asked the company to spend money on plumbing issues that were not required.

Regan said she was unaware of any plumbing issues, but if Scott had noticed something the business might have had to go through the building department to make those changes.

Bradford said Scott had asked the company to meet all her concerns before opening the restaurant, but during the inspection he told her the company would not have enough funds to pay for the updates until it could be open for a while.

Regan said OEHA doesn’t allow businesses to pay as they go. She said since Roseburg Salsa Co. made the changes, it could have been approved for licensing with the OEHA, but the owners declined to renew the license at the end of 2017.

“As far as I know they had no outstanding issues,” Regan said.

In October, Roseburg Salsa posted on Facebook about opening its kitchen for other local businesses to use, and Scott had commented, saying those personal food businesses should contact the Department of Agriculture and the OEHA. Bradford said this undermined the business on a public post.

Regan said Scott’s comment was true, and that someone operating a food business at a particular location needs to be licensed for that location, and can’t operate under another person’s license.

Bradford submitted a complaint to Oregon Health Authority, outlining the issues he had with Scott’s inspection. An investigator with OHA reached Tuesday said he was not allowed to comment on his investigation.

Ultimately, the expenses and regulatory issues ended up being too much, and the restaurant closed.

A business needs to be licensed with OEHA if its main function is food production, like a restaurant. But since Roseburg Salsa is no longer a restaurant and its main function is processing, it only needs to be licensed with the Department of Agriculture, which it currently is.

In December, the salsas returned to local stores, including Sherm’s Thunderbird Market in Roseburg, as well as convenient stores like Oak Market and 1 AM Market in Roseburg.

“We’re focusing on local markets and small businesses where we’re able to have a bit more influence and we can talk to the owners,” Bradford said.

Bradford said he tries to look at the restaurant’s closure as a blessing.

“We found our niche, having salsa to really fund our educational initiatives that are helping students to be successful,” Bradford said.

Bradford said the salsas have also seen some changes, including the addition of the Carolina reaper, after co-owner Cody Scott made contact with PuckerButt Pepper Company in South Carolina.

Roseburg Salsa Co. used to offer seven salsas at its restaurant, including one from a local chef, but now it is sticking to its three best sellers — the medium, hot and green salsa. The business recently released the green salsa to be sold in stores, and Cody Scott said it began selling instantly.

Reporter Emily Hoard can be reached at 541-957-4217 or ehoard@nrtoday.com. Or follow her on Twitter @hoard_emily.

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Business, Natural Resources and Outdoors Reporter

Emily Hoard is the business, outdoors and natural resources reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4217 or by email at ehoard@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @hoard_emily.

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