Opinion: Health inspector spoiled fun at Cortland Arts and Wine Festival

Editor's Note: The following is an opinion piece submitted by Mike and Lee Joyner, of McGraw.

As always, alternative or dissenting viewpoints are welcome. Submit guest columns to Editor Peter Blanchard at [email protected].

Firstly, I would like prefix our thoughts on the perspective my wife and I have of this fair city of Cortland.

My wife, a native Pennsylvanian, and I, hailing from North Syracuse, made Cortland our home back in 2000. We have come to love the seven valleys and the great resources the county, city and surrounding towns have to offer. We applaud the various agencies, planners, marketing and sales professionals and elected officials that facilitate and fund the cultural events in our little neck of the woods in upstate New York.

We are huge fans of New York dairy products, produce, wines and craft beers. Since making Cortland our home, we look forward to Chillibration, Taste of Cortland, the summer music series, the Arts & Wine Festival and so many other events that are typical of much larger cities and demographics. Hats off to all those that contribute to the betterment of Cortland.

With the refocusing of our area to bolster tourism as a gateway to the Finger Lakes wine country region, we are pleased to see the success of local businesses. The eateries, craft beer and wine tasting — along with three and four nights of live music each week — make it a destination to spend time in our fair city. It is progress we are happy to partake in. As a local business owner, I try to frequent different businesses each week as a member of our community.

With much efforts expended to make this progress, the witnessing of harassment of vendors from a local government agency employee this past weekend at the Cortland Arts and Wine festival is something we find unprofessional and counterproductive.

Local residents enjoy a round of wine at the shade tent on Saturday. Photo by John Fuller.

Local residents enjoy a round of wine at the shade tent on Saturday. Photo by John Fuller.

In this particular incident, we witnessed a health inspector conducting inspections at noon — during peak hours — and, it was, in our opinion, to harass local vendors.

We are appreciative of the work done to ensure food safety and the protection of the public at large. All good and necessary; however, we understand that these inspections are to be conducted at off-peak hours and not within the purview of the public.

We will not name the vendor here, but we have enjoyed their offerings in the past, and to watch this inspector prodding and poking the meats and food we were in the process of ordering was, in our opinion, an intentional harassment of the vendor.

The inspector was interfering with the workflow of the vendor serving us, clearly uncalled for. The inspector moved on to other vendors during the lunch hour. After we ate, we returned to express our observations to the owner of the eatery. Had we not known the vendor from past experience as a customer, we would have gotten the impression something was amiss as to why were they being targeted.

It is uncalled for to discourage or turn away potential customers to a thriving small business. Small business is hard enough to make successful without this type of behavior from our local agencies.

Is this the Department of Health’s idea of promoting Cortland at an event? Clearly unprofessional conduct, and flies in the face of every person behind promoting the best we have to offer as a community.

Do we want to ensure eateries abide by health codes? Absolutely. Does it need to be done in a manner akin to a shake down, in front of customers?  I think it is a fair request that those paid by our tax dollars provide their services in a manner that is professional, serves the interests of our citizens and in keeping with a business friendly environment.

Mike & Lee Joyner
McGraw, NY