A RESTAURANTEUR in Ballydehob has had ‘a major setback’ after she was instructed to destroy 150 takeaway meals.
The HSE made the decision because Bally Bia was not in compliance with marginal, local and restricted (MLR) regulations, due to a lack of direct sales.
Faye Bolger, who is a native of Ballydehob, said her life’s ambition was to run her own restaurant.
She got that chance in 2018 when she took over The Porcelain Room and established Bally Bia in 2018.
‘I had been working there, on and off, between the ages of 16 and 26, so I was very familiar with the menu and the customers,’ said Faye.
The circumstances changed, last March, when the Covid-19 restrictions were imposed.
Faye adapted by turning to a take-away menu and was in full compliance with the regulations.
It was during the October lockdown that Faye decided to diversity and make heat-at-home meals.
She consulted the Health Service Executive – knowing that different regulations would apply – and started production.
The HSE advised her of the marginal, local and restricted (MLR) regulations, which means that a person with a primary catering establishment could supply a small quantity of products to retail outlets within a certain radius.
Given the demand for her range of Thai curries, traditional dishes, and desserts, Faye soon discovered that the Bally Bia kitchen at her premises at Staball Hill was too small.
She said she was prevented from subletting a commercial kitchen as Bally Bia, so she opted instead to work within the MLR regulations from a kitchen at Ballydehob Community Hall.
‘The kitchen in the community hall was upgraded in 2019, so I thought I had found a solution to my dilemma,’ said Faye, who relocated to the hall in the second week of January.
‘We were doing direct sales, as well as supplying retail outlets, but the demand for retail skyrocketed,’ she added.
As a result, the HSE deemed her operation to be outside the scope of the regulations because there wasn’t sufficient direct sales involved.
‘I had the inspection on Friday, and I thought everything was okay, so I was devastated to hear it wasn’t and that the produce would have to be recalled and destroyed.’
Although the 29-year old chef was upset by the experience – especially after all the changes that have come her way throughout the pandemic – she said, ‘I have no choice but to adapt and change once again and to provide a click and collect, or a store-to-door service.
‘I just hope,’ she added, ‘that this will be the final hurdle and that the community will continue to support the business.’