The Environmental Health Program is responsible for the inspection of all restaurants and retail markets in La Plata and Archuleta Counties. The Environmental Health staff perform inspections, investigations, and enforce compliance with State laws and regulations. Staff also provide technical expertise and training for the food service industry. The Health Protection Programs also investigate all complaints, reports of food-borne illness, and food-related health problems.
To make payment for retail food applications, plan reviews, or other services, do one of the following:
- (Preferred) Pay online with credit card or e-check. Select "Food License" in the Payment for field, write the name of the establishment in the Description field, and write the invoice number in the Invoice Number/Customer Name field.
- Pay in person with check, credit card or cash at either of our office locations: 281 Sawyer Drive, Durango; or 502 South 8th Street, Pagosa Springs.
- Write the name of the establishment and invoice number on the memo line and mail or ship a check to: San Juan Basin Public Health
ATTN: Environmental Health
281 Sawyer Drive
Durango CO 81303
If you get sick eating out, contact San Juan Basin Public Health to file a complaint, or make a written complaint online. The staff will request information detailing the foods consumed, when consumed, when symptoms started, if others are ill with similar symptoms, and a 72-hour meal history.
If you are severely ill or if your symptoms persist, you should contact your physician. In most cases, medical tests must be conducted to confirm the specific cause of the food-borne illness. Contact the food service establishment and advise them of your concerns.
The food service industry offers a wide variety of occupations ranging from restaurants, school cafeterias, mobile food units, and cottage foods. There are several options for you to consider when improving your food handling skills.
- State Food Safety Class
- The Colorado State University Extension Office also offers courses. For questions or additional information call 970-382-6461 or send them an email.
San Juan Basin Public Health also provides trainings and educational sessions. Staff host Food Safety Basic classes in both Archuleta and La Plata Counties on a regular basis. Additional classes may be scheduled upon request. Certified Food Protection Manager classes are now offered in La Plata County multiple times a year. Most trainings are available in Spanish upon request. Please contact SJBPH for current dates and locations at 970-335-2054 or send us an email.
What do I do if I want to operate a restaurant, grocery store, or other food outlet?
All food service establishments selling, serving, and preparing food require a State of Colorado Retail Food Establishment License. All facilities being used for such purpose must be inspected and approved by SJBPH Environmental Health staff prior to operation. If interested in starting a retail food establishment or retail food market in Archuleta or La Plata Counties, contact San Juan Basin Public Health for assistance at phone: 970-335-2052 or send us an email.
Plans & Specifications
A set of plans and specifications must be submitted to the health department for review and approval before construction begins. Once you have submitted the plan review packet to SJBPH, approval and licensing takes approximately eight weeks. Retail food licenses cannot be purchased until the plan review has been completed and approved by SJBPH staff.
What do I do if I want to purchase an existing restaurant, grocery store or other food service facility?
If interested in purchasing an existing food service operation, contact the San Juan Basin Public Health's Environmental Health program for information regarding previous inspections at phone: 970-335-2052 or via email.
Request a change of ownership inspection; this will provide detailed information outlining any changes or remodeling that may be required to bring the facility into compliance with Colorado State Retail Food Establishment Regulations. Since the regulations were updated in January of 2019, even a restaurant that is currently operating may not meet the new regulations. The owner will be required to bring the facility into compliance.
If you are purchasing an existing establishment, please submit the Change of Ownership Packet before making any equipment or remodeling changes.
What fees may be assessed?
The cost of the plan review is $100, due upon submission of the plans and specifications. Plan review time will be billed at the hourly rate of $60 per hour.
San Juan Basin Public Health's Environmental Health program staff work with food facilities by providing both consultations and regulatory inspections. Facilities are inspected per the Colorado Retail Food Code. Priority violations are those that are more likely to cause a food-borne illness.
One inspection may not represent the overall, long-term food safety practices of a facility. On any given day, a restaurant may have greater or fewer violations than noted in the most recent regulatory inspection.
Any retail food establishment may request a variance from any requirement of the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations when the establishment believes that the requirement results in undue economic hardship or when it is believed that a standard may not apply to the specific situation.
To Request a Variance
Complete the Request for Variance form. Submit the form and attachments to San Juan Basin Public Health for review. See the variance guidance documents below. For additional information please submit via email.
What to include in the Variance Packet:
- Request for Variance Form (PDF)
- Evidence of financial burden (if applicable). Please attach estimates of loss of income and/or cost of compliance.
- Detailed explanation of why the regulation is not applicable to the establishment (if applicable).
- Explanation of how any potential health hazards will be mitigated (including any policies/procedures).
- Description of how implementation will take place (including staff training, acquisition of supplies, etc.).
- Colorado Food Code Regulations on Variances (Page 96, section 3-502.11) (PDF)
For more information related to requesting a Variance for Pets on Patios, please see the Service Animals and Pets tab.
To operate a food truck or other mobile unit it is required to obtain a Colorado Retail Food License and comply with the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations. A review and approval of operations and mobile retail food operation plans is required prior to a license being granted.
A mobile unit serving only hot coffee, espressos, or pre-packaged manufactured food that does not require temperature control do not need a retail food license. Facilities serving shelf stable cream and milk do not need a retail food license.
Per Colorado Food Code §6-501.115, pets are not permitted in retail food establishments. This prohibition does not include service animals, which are always allowed, or to outdoor patios so long as the below stipulations are followed.
Dogs that are not service animals may be allowed in the outdoor patio area of a retail food establishment under the following stipulations:
- Approval for the request must be granted by the local regulatory authority.
- The dog-friendly area must be maintained clean and free of animal waste.
- Dog waste clean-up bags must be available to customers at all times when the outdoor seating area is open for use.
- Receptacles for the disposal of animal waste must be available when the outdoor seating area is open. The receptacles must be emptied at least daily and must be kept in a clean and sanitary condition.
- The dog-friendly outdoor seating area must be accessible from the outdoors. Non-service dogs are not allowed inside the restaurant.
- Staff are not allowed to pet, hold, or feed dogs.
- Employees that have incidental contact with dogs or dog bowls must wash their hands.
- If provided, dog water bowls must be filled, cleaned, and stored in a manner that prevents contamination of food, food equipment, and single-service articles.
The following requirements will be communicated to customers using signs, printed brochures, advisories, or other effective written means:
- Your dog must be well-behaved and on a leash at all times.
- Keep your dog close to you but not on tables or chairs.
- Do not let your dog eat or drink out of the restaurant's glassware or dishware.
- Clean up after your dog with the provided cleaning supplies.
Food manufacturing and storage include selling prepared packaged food to retailers, re-packaging food and ingredients, and selling products on the internet.
Food that is prepared for human consumption must be made in a licensed and inspected commercial kitchen. Food may not be prepared in a home kitchen for sale to the public. The Colorado Food Manufacturing Regulations must be followed for such a facility. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) regulates wholesale food. For a current list of manufacturers please visit the CDPHE Manufactured Foods website.
The Cottage Foods Act allows limited types of food products that are non-potentially hazardous (do not require refrigeration for safety) to be sold directly to consumers without licensing or inspection. For more information about cottage foods, please visit the La Plata Extension website or contact Nicole Clark at the La Plata County CSU Extension office at phone: 970-382-6461 or via email.
San Juan Basin Public Health is not licensing vendors for special or temporary events. Each Colorado county has specific rules and regulations that must be followed to ensure the public's health and safety. Please follow the guidelines for temporary events. It is the responsibility of both the event sponsor and the vendor to ensure that all regulations are met.
Mobile units or food trucks that operate more than 14 non-consecutive days, must obtain a Colorado Retail Food Establishment License.