Young and Hungry

Restaurateur Bo Blair On The Regulatory ‘Grease Trap’ That Is Montgomery County

“They tell us to get this grease trap that, seriously, it’s like something that would be in FedEx stadium...They said they won’t even answer any questions until we install the grease trap. We get the grease trap, we install it, the [Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission] guy comes out and he looks at it and says, ‘Well, this is wrong.’ So he makes us get rid of that and get a grease trap that is literally a tenth of the size...To work that simple part out, it took like a month. We had to install a completely useless grease trap simply for them to come out and say it’s not the right grease trap. They would not even entertain the idea that what they were telling us to put in was wrong....That was the tip of the iceberg. Every single thing was a disaster.”—Restaurateur Bo Blair, speaking to Y&H alum Tim Carman in the Washington Post on trying to open a simple sandwich and salad shop, Jetties, amid the regulatory rigmarole of Montgomery County

Photo courtesy of Jetties

  • Java Master

    Yep, doing business in Montgomery County is sort of like Death from a Thousand Cuts. Regulatory overload all in the name of "good government".

  • d

    While I realize that the WSSC can be "red-tape city" deal with, you also need to realize that Montgomery County has some of the highest standards, and therefore some of the safest water in the country. A "grease trap" collects most grease from restaurants, so that it does not go into the sewer system; if the grease gets into the sewer system, it collects and builds up-the grease does not stay soft; it becomes similar almost dry clay or set plaster. Not only does it clog the sewers, but removing it is labor intensive-sometimes it has to be "jetted" out, which is extremely expensive, and even more so if you are found to be in violation of codes. It is also important to differentiate between a "grease trap," whihc is cleaned out manually, and the more-efficient GRD (Grease Recovery Device) processes the grease automatically.
    If you were building a restaurant, you should have had WSSC-approved plans, that would have made it clear what size/type you needed. I am not really sure who you had installing the grease trap, but you should be looking at them for your problems-they should have been arranging the plans, the grease trap needed, and all the inspections, from pre-lim to final. There should have been plans submitted for approval-even if simply remodeling an existing restaurant-even if it is a simple "hand-drawing." It's hard to believe that you got past the point of installing the Grease trap without any approved plans-are you sure that your guys are licensed and working within codes? It seems like there is more to your story than what you have written. Signed the wife of a WSSC and Maryland State Master Plumber with 35+ years' experience-

  • John Grindle

    I am sure that those regulatory guidelines are a bit out of wack. But it is important to maintain your wvo grease containers and grease traps to keep them from backing up and creating a public Health hazard, People have got to eat in these places and we cant afford to have sewage backing up and fats oils and grease attracting dangerous bacteria. I am sure that there is a middle ground somewhere in there that is both reasonable and effective for all sides involved