Posse Lodge food permit fracas resolved

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By Tris DeRoma

A routine request from the New Mexico Environment Department to the Sheriff’s Posse Lodge asking the lodge operators to apply for a more permanent food license recently triggered a flurry of concerns. 

According to NMED spokesperson Jim Winchester, an inspector from the NMED’s Española office thought it would be a good idea, “due to the ongoing nature and number of food events they hold at their facility.” He also stressed that this has nothing to do with food safety, but rather practicality.

“To the best of NMED’S knowledge, the Posse Lodge has been and continues to be compliant with our regulations,” Winchester said.

Winchester added that the request had also inadvertently threatened the Sheriff’s Posse Lodge historical status as part of New Mexico’s historical registry.

“One unintended consequence of requiring the Posse Lodge to apply for an annual permit apparently would be that they would need to install a hood with a venting system and fire suppression in the kitchen,” Winchester said. “Originally, the Posse Lodge believed that an annual permit would make them a ‘commercial restaurant’ necessitating a business license from LA County but county officials confirmed that this was not the case because they are currently allowed to use their facility as a commissary-type kitchen.” 

Lodge management sent out an email letter of appeal dated mid-April to many Los Alamos residents asking they write in to the NMED, asking the agency to keep issuing temporary food permits so various nonprofit organizations that use the lodge could continue with fundraisers.

The email read, “The New Mexico Environmental Health Division has brought to our attention that they believe that we no longer qualify for a temporary food service permit for our monthly breakfasts and dance events. Without these permits, the Posse Lodge will not be able to continue any food service events and therefore cannot support local non-profits or maintain the building itself,” said a statement in the letter. We are requesting from our supporters a letter to this department expressing your views about what the use of the Lodge means to you and your organization.” 

Winchester said the issue has already been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, meaning it’s business as usual for organizations using the lodge for fundraising activities and other events.

“Subsequent conversations between Mr. (Carey) Grzadzinski (Posse Lodge board president) and the NMED inspector have led to a tentative resolution allowing the Posse kitchen to continue operating their monthly pancake breakfasts and other occasional fundraising food service events under NMED’s temporary food service establishment permits,” Winchester said. “We believe the Posse Lodge is satisfied with this solution.”