Restaurant owners in Kent County are getting a break that they say is much needed, after more than a year of financial hardship due to the pandemic. The Kent County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on March 25 to waive the 2021 food service licensing fees for all food establishments in the county.
Jessica Ann Tyson, owner of The Candied Yam in Grand Rapids, said the news came at an important time.
"“We were so excited," she said, "...Our stove needs to be repaired, and that is definitely a bill that is going to take it all, but our stove is repaired. That's how we make money."
The Candied Yam is one of the 2,294 existing food establishments that stands to benefit from the decision. In a statement Kent County Chair, Mandy Bolter, said "Our restaurant owners and employees are hurting - they are among the hardest hit by the pandemic. The Board of Commissioners felt very strongly about waiving this fee as one small way to provide meaningful assistance where possible."
While licensing and inspection fees are being waived, restaurants are still required to submit a renewal application by April 30, 2021, to remain licensed during the 2021-2022 operating period.
Tyson has been caring for the community during the pandemic, giving what she calls "random yams of kindness," by offering food support to local community members. The Black-owned business also opened on Martin Luther King Day to serve around 450 customers free of charge. Tyson said the money saved by the fees being waived will help The Candied Yam regain some of what it had lost to stay afloat.
"This is what community does. Community rallies around each other," she said, adding "...That gives us money to use in other areas that we during the pandemic had to make sacrifices for."