Temporary Food Events
Who Needs a Permit?
Any temporary food service offered to the public, whether offered for a price or free of charge, requires a permit from the health department. Most notably, this includes food booths at fairs, festivals, celebrations, exhibitions, carnivals, and other community gatherings. (Note that large events may also require a mass gathering permit from the health department.) Food-service vehicles, including rental beverage trailers (such as those from soda companies), must meet health standards for temporary event operations and require a health department permit.
Most events are considered public. If any advertising or inducement exists for a community member to attend, regardless of cost (or lack of) to an individual, an event is considered "public." Even if an event is open to only a portion of the public, the health department may still require a permit; contact the Food Protection Bureau if you are unsure.
Every food vendor at an event must obtain their own temporary food permit. This includes existing restaurants, caterers, churches, community or school organizations, and volunteer or social groups. An existing establishment’s permanent-facility permit is not transferable to a temporary location, even if the event is on their own premises (but outside their regular kitchen).
Temporary event food booths are subject to inspection by the health department. All violations must be corrected on-site, and unsafe food practices or booths operating without a permit may result in food removal or booth closure.
The department will only issue a temporary food service permit if the food booth is operating in conjunction with an official, designated event or celebration as defined in health department regulations. An individual, company, or group setting up a food booth in a parking lot, park, or on the street (one-time or regularly) does not constitute an event; these food vendors instead usually need to apply for a mobile food service permit.
There are three types of temporary food permits:
- A daily permit, good for one day of temporary food service at one event.
- A three day single event permit, good for temporary food service at one event that lasts three days or less (not transferable to multiple events or locations).
- An extended permit, good for up to 14 nonconsecutive days of temporary food service at multiple events. Extended permit holders must obtain separate date-specific permits for each of the (up to) 14 days they wish to serve food. These date-specific permits may be obtained when applying for the extended permit, or may be obtained in person at the Food Protection Bureau prior to each specific event. When receiving permits after the initial application, extended permit holders must produce their receipt verifying the number of days still remaining on the 14-day extended permit.
- A seasonal permit, good for up to 9 months of intermittent food service at the same location and serving the same menu. Seasonal permit holders may only apply for 1 seasonal permit in any 12-month period.
Permits should be secured at least two weeks before the event. Applications received within two weeks of the event will result in a late fee, and are not guaranteed to be processed in time for the event.
Temporary food permits are issued in-person only, and only to the person in charge of the booth. In order to receive the permit, the person in charge must demonstrate adequate knowledge of food safety and sanitation practices and must have a current food handler card or food safety manager certification.
At least one person with a food handler card must be present at the food booth at all operating times to supervise other workers’ food handling. (A food handler card is not the same as a temporary food permit; BOTH are required to operate a temporary food booth.)
All people working in the booth must read and be familiar with our Quick Reference Pamphlet for Food Booths (PDF coming soon).
No food for the public may be prepared or stored in a private residence. Food should be prepared on-site at the event, where the health department may inspect sanitary conditions and food handling practices. The use of a health-department–approved restaurant, school, civic center, church kitchen, etc. for food preparation or storage is also acceptable with a signed commissary agreement. A separate permit is generally required if food preparation occurs at a location different from the event location.
All food and beverages (including ice) must come from an approved source. This means food items and ingredients must be purchased or donated from an approved wholesale or retail store. No donations from private individuals are allowed.
Heating and cooling equipment and methods must be approved by the health department.
Before applying for a permit, please determine:
- who will be in charge of the booth (this person must have a food handler card or food safety manager certification)
- your complete menu, including beverages
- your booth structure (whether provided by the event sponsor or by the food vendor)
- what equipment you will need
- how and where you will wash hands
- how you will maintain hot and cold product temperatures
- how you will transport and store all foods
- where and how you will clean equipment
Steps to obtaining a temporary food permit:
- Make sure you meet all permit Requirements in the previous tab.
- Fully and properly complete a Temporary Food Permit Application, including the complete list of equipment and all food items and beverages you plan to serve.
- The person in charge should submit the application in person to the Food Protection Bureau at least two weeks prior to the event. We accept applications Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
- Pay the permit fee, which will be calculated in the office at the time of submission (nonprofit organizations are NOT exempt from the permit fee).
- The health department will review the application with the person in charge. An inspection of the food booth may also be required.
If the person in charge is not a native English speaker, please feel free to bring a translator to health department meetings or inspections.
For Event Planners
You may not obtain temporary food permits on behalf of vendors planning to provide food service at your event, and you may not allow any vendor to set up or operate a food booth without a health department permit. Vendors operating without their own health department permit will be closed by the department.
To ensure all food vendors at your event are properly permitted:
When planning an event, please submit a list of food vendors to the Food Protection Bureau as soon as possible. Please also include the name, date(s), and location of your event. You may fax (385-468-3846) or email (HealthFood@slco.org) your list.