It’s all over but the shouting…
After years of carping, the Kansas City health department’s "food handler cards" are no more.
"They city’s eliminated one of its two dumb cards," cracks Westport businessman Bill Nigro. "One is called the liquor card and it requires people to pay $41 and you have one if you’re involved in serving alcohol anywhere in Kansas City, Missouri. And the one we got eliminated is the health card. It costs $20 and it’s the card they started making any employee in the restaurant and bar industry who handles food buy. They started it about seven years ago."
Here’s the rub…
"They send people to these little classes on hygene, like about washing your hands and stuff and keeping food hot and cold – things you learned in high school," Nigro says. "Then every three years you have to buy another card and take the class again. Obviously, because in those three years that you’ve gotten expertise in the restaurant business, you got dumber. That’s why I call it a dumb card. And it’s a dumb card because they shove it down the throats of minimum wage people and they don’t even require it in Kansas."
It’s an unecessary burden on low age, working class people, Nigro says.
"Because people who work in our industry, a lot of them don’t have vehicles because they’re the lowest paid people in town. And they have to figure out a way to get to 24th and Troost or 7th and Woodland. Try getting there from up north by the airport – it’ll be a $40 cab ride. It’s a roadblock for poor people to get jobs in this town."
The city has an ordinance that it can’t make money on the cards – it can only charge enough to cover the cost of the cards and the classes – but Nigro says he’s skeptical.
"Then they come into your restaurant or bar and if a certain percentage of your help doesn’t have the health cards on them they penalize you on your inspection points. Like it’s a critical violation. So then they can come back in and reinspect you and charge you for it and that’s like $150. And reinspections have gone up 300 percent over the last three years."
It’s not only a scam but a needless one, Nigro insists.
"For example, we sent a bartender down to the health department, and they give the class in like five languages or something," Nigro says. "And when he got down there, he signed up to take the class in Chinese. And when the test came, he just kept pointing down to the paper and acting confused, so they helped him fill out all the right answers and he passed. It’s a joke."
At a meeting with city officals during the Funkhouser regime, Nigro asked health officials if they were passing people who were mentally impaired.
"And they said, yes," Nigro says. "That’s how ridiculous it all is. They’re just doing this for the money and it’s an open book test. Even a moron could figure out the answers."