Dear Applicant:

Congratulations! We are pleased that you are planning to open a food facility in Santa Barbara County. At Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services, we recognize that our first and legal responsibility is to ensure safe and clean food establishments; but we also take pride in providing excellent service to you, our customers. We are working hard to create the most effective approach to the permitting of food establishments possible.

 It is our goal to help you become familiar with relevant state laws, and also to prepare you for the expectations of this agency. Enclosed you will find all of the materials you need to get started. After going through this step-by-step process, if there is something that you wish you had been provided, please let us know. We are always open to suggestions.

Our offices are open for assistance Monday through Friday, from 8:00am - 11:30 am (walk-ins welcome) and 1:00pm - 4:30pm (by appointment only), except legal holidays. You can reach us by phone in Santa Barbara at 805-681-4900 (press 3 to reach the front desk), or in Santa Maria at 805-346-8460 (press 3 to reach the front desk).

Lars Seifert, Director 
Environmental Health Services

Opening a Food Facility

This is a step-by-step guide to getting through the Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services health permit process.

Step 1: Plan Check & Application

All food facility operators must complete a Health Permit Application.  If you are doing any type of construction or modification to your restaurant or food facility, you must start here, at Step 1, with the plan check process and a  Plan Check application .

 If you are simply taking over an existing operation (a change of ownership) with no equipment modification or construction, you will simply need to fill out an application and then proceed to Step 2.

Plan Check Information and Expectations

Plan Check is the process by which we ensure that your plans and equipment are meeting state health requirements before you begin your project. The California Health & Safety Code, Sections 113915 and 113730 require that the county health department approve all plans in the design, remodel, or repair of a food establishment. By consulting with you early in your endeavor, we hope to prevent costly mistakes, while ensuring that your establishment is built legally (in compliance with minimum standards) and in the best interest of the public's health. The plan check process may also include other city and county departments such as building, zoning, and the fire department.

To begin the plan check process, you are required to submit:

  • A completed signed application form -  Plan Check application.
  • 3 - copies of your plans (plans must be drawn to a minimum scale of 1/4" per foot, and be clear and legible), and
  • the associated plan check application fee.

The plan check fee will vary depending on the size of the project. The Plan Check application contains information regarding fees.

The time it will take you to get your plans approved depends on the size and complexity of the project , the clarity and completeness of the plans, as well as your knowledge of the construction standards. The law requires that plans be approved or rejected within 20 working days after date of submittal. Often, small projects can be turned around in a couple of days, while larger projects may require a meeting and/or a couple of weeks to review. You can get an idea as to your particular timeline by contacting the plan checker in your area. In the North County, at (805) 346-8465. In the South County, at (805) 696-1135.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

If plans must be returned for extensive revisions or major corrections, an hourly fee will be required each time the plans are resubmitted.

Upon approval, two sets of plans will be returned to you for submittal to the city or county building departments and the third will be kept on file with Environmental Health Services. An approved set of plans must be kept at the construction site until the final inspection has been made by Environmental Health Services.

Call to schedule the first construction inspection when the plumbing is roughed in, the floors, walls, and ceiling materials are completed, just prior to installing major equipment. (It is best to call at least three days ahead to schedule an inspection time.)

A final approval inspection and a valid health permit is necessary to begin operation. All construction and equipment will need a final, on-site inspection by Environmental Health Services PRIOR to the restaurant opening. (Call at least three days in advance to schedule this inspection to avoid any delays in opening.) You will also need to receive clearance from the other city and county agencies before you operate. You will need to pay for your permit and any remaining Plan Review balances prior to opening.

We will look for the following:

  • The facility conforms to the latest set of Environmental Health Services approved plans;
  • Proof that the building and fire department has inspected and approved the facility; and
  • The utilities (electric, gas, and potable water) are provided and all equipment is in working order.

The next section has construction information for plan check. Remember, if in doubt, ask questions - we want you to get it right the first time! Our offices are open Monday through Friday, from 8:00am-11:30am and 1:00pm-4:30pm, except legal holidays. You can reach us by phone in Santa Barbara at 681-4900 (press 3 to reach the front desk), or in Santa Maria at 346-8460 (press 3 to reach the front desk).

Construction Requirements & Guidelines for Food Establishments

Your plans will need to clearly indicate compliance with the following requirements:

  1. Submit complete and legible plans that are drawn to scale. (H&SC 114380)
  2. National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) (or equivalent as determined by Environmental Health Services) standards are often used as a basis for approval in the evaluation of food equipment and its installation. Manufacturer's specification sheets for the proposed equipment may be required. (H&SC 114065)
  3. An equipment listing by make and model must be included.
  4. An equipment placement plan must be included. This is a floor plan which shows the equipment layout throughout the food establishment.
  5. An interior finish schedule must be included.
  6. Each food establishment must be fully enclosed in a building consisting of floors, walls and overhead structure. Exception: Outdoor BBQs, outdoor dining areas and produce stands. (H&SC 114145)
  1. Floor surfaces in all areas must be smooth, durable, nonabsorbent and easily cleanable (submit sample). Flooring must continue up the wall four inches (or toe-kicks on counters), in a seamless manner, forming a 3/8 inch minimum radius cove as an integral unit (see figure 1). Exception: No coving is required in the following areas: (1) dining, (2) areas where food is stored in original, unopened containers, (3) customer areas in a retail market, (4) guestroom and private accommodations of owners and operators in restricted food service transient occupancy establishments. (H&SC 114150)

    Floor Surface

    Typically used flooring materials include: (1) 86000 Series Armstrong sheet vinyl; (2) Commercial quarry or ceramic tile; or (3) Epoxy resin. Vinyl tiles and rubber base are not acceptable.

  2. Floor drains are required in floors that are water flushed for cleaning and where pressure spray methods for cleaning equipment are used. (Slope 1:50) (H&SC 114150)
  1. The walls and ceilings of all rooms must be of a durable, smooth, nonabsorbent, washable and light colored surface (Sample must be submitted and must be 70% or lighter per the light reflective value or LVR scale). Note: brick, cinderblock, or textured surfaces are not acceptable. (H&SC 114130.1)
    Exception: Bar areas, rooms where food is stored in original, unopened containers and dining areas. Restrooms, exclusively for use by patrons, are exempt from light colored wall requirement.
  2. Wall areas adjacent to bar sinks must be smooth, nonabsorbent and easily cleanable. (H&SC 114155)
  3. Approved acoustical paneling may be utilized at least six feet above the floor (submit sample). (H&SC 114155)  
  1. All utensils, display cases, windows, counters, shelves, tables, refrigeration units, sinks, dishwashing machines and other equipment or utensils used in the preparation, sale, service and display of food must be made of nontoxic, noncorrosive materials. (H&SC 114090)
  2. All display cases, counters, shelves, refrigeration units and other equipment must be properly constructed so as to be durable, smooth, nonabsorbent and washable. Equipment must be placed on the floor in one of the following manners: (1) on six inch high round, sanitary legs or casters; or (2) on a four inch high curb to enable the installation of four inch high continuous cove base flooring (see Figure 2) . (H&SC 114169)

    Display Cases

  3. Sneezeguard protection must be provided where unwrapped food is displayed or customer self-service of foods is proposed. Detailed elevations for sneezeguards and the related equipment must be submitted. (H&SC 114060)
  4. Sufficient (NSF) commercial refrigeration units must be provided which will accommodate the storage demands of the food service proposed. (H&SC 113885)
  1. An approved (ANSI) three compartment sink with dual integral, sloped metal drainboards, sound metal legs and metal backsplash for washing kitchen utensils and/or multi-use customer utensils, is required. The sink must conform with NSF standards and drain to a floor sink. The size of the compartments and drainboards of sinks must be large enough to accommodate the largest utensil used. 
  2. An approved (ANSI) three compartment sink with dual integral, sloped metal drainboards or an approved dish machine system is required for washing customer multi-use eating and drinking utensils.
  3. An approved (ANSI) three compartment sink is required in addition to any dish machine which is installed (see "a" above).
  4. Facilities utilizing a sink for food preparation, such as washing vegetables, must have a separate sink (separate from all other sinks) for this activity, that drains to a floor sink.
  1. The dish machine must be NSF approved. (H&SC 114193)
  2. Integral metal drainboards on both sides of the dish machine must be provided. Exception: Undercounter dish machines. (H&SC 114099.7)
  3. Submit the make and model number of the dish machine proposed.
  4. Adequate ventilation must be provided above heat sanitizing dish machines, i.e., hood or slot vent. Exception: undercounter dish machines. (H&SC 114149.1)
  1. Provide an approved, separate, hand wash basin at a readily accessible location within the food preparation areas. (H&SC 113953)
  2. Provide a hand wash basin within or adjacent to the restrooms.
  3. Provide permanently installed, single-service hand towel or hot air blower dispensers at all hand wash basins. In addition, permanently installed toilet tissue dispensers must be installed at each toilet. Single-service detergent or soap must also be provided. Soap dispensers must be mounted in customer restrooms of grocery stores over 20,000 square feet. (H&SC 113953.2)
  1. Indicate capacity (BTU, KW) and location of the proposed or existing water heater. (H&SC 114195)
  2. All sinks must be equipped with hot and cold water dispensed from mixing faucets. (H&SC 114192)
  3. All exposed plumbing and gas lines must be mounted or enclosed so as to facilitate cleaning. An effort should be made to enclose all plumbing lines within walls unless otherwise approved. (H&SC 114271(c))
  4. Whenever possible, a grease trap should be located outside. Show location.
  5. Water Heater Sizing Calculation Worksheet
Floor Sink
  1. All equipment which generates condensation and liquid wastes from steam tables, ice machines and bins, food preparation sinks, display cases, etc. must be drained by means of indirect waste pipes into a floor sink or other approved indirect waste receptor. Floor drains are not to be used in lieu of floor sinks. Exception: Dishwashing machine may be connected directly to sewer if immediately downstream from a floor drain. (H&SC 114100)
  2. The type of existing or proposed refrigeration equipment drainage should be indicated (i.e., a self-contained evaporator or a floor sink).
  3. Self-contained evaporator units may be acceptable in lieu of floor sink drainage for clear condensation only. Walk-in refrigeration units and ice makers will require floor sink drainage due to the large volume of liquid waste generated.
  4. All floor sinks must be at least half exposed or otherwise readily accessible for inspection and cleaning if installed under equipment.
  1. All exposed conduit lines must be mounted or enclosed so as to facilitate cleaning. Flex lines must be enclosed within walls. (H&SC 114155)
  2. Sufficient natural or artificial lighting is required. The code requires the brightness of twenty foot candles in food preparation and utensil wash areas, ten foot candles in bars, storage areas and restrooms. This means that work areas must be sufficiently bright so employees may easily see their work area and identify those areas which need cleaning. (H&SC 114170)
  3. Shatterproof shields on lights are required above food preparation, open food storage, and utensil cleaning areas. (H&SC 114170)
  1. A ventilation exhaust hood must be installed at or above all food heat processing equipment. Mechanical exhaust ventilation is required at or above all cooking equipment such as ranges, griddles, ovens, deep fryers, barbecues and rotisseries to effectively remove cooking odors, smoke, steam, grease and vapors. (H&SC 114140 )
  2. Hoods and mechanical ventilation must comply with all requirements set forth in the current edition of the Uniform Mechanical Code as adopted by the local building department. (H&SC 114140)
  3. Canopy hoods must extend at lease six inches beyond all sides of the cooking equipment as measured from the inside edge of the grease trough if provided. (Uniform Mechanical Code)
  4. Hood lighting fixtures must be of shatterproof construction or be installed with shatterproof shields. (H&SC 114170)
  5. Vertical Broiler Guidelines [ English]  [ Spanish]
  1. The refrigeration units must conform with ANSI standards or equivalent (H&SC 114065) and be capable of maintaining temperatures of 41° F.
  2. Provide information regarding the interior and exterior construction and finish.
  3. Provide an approved flooring material with four inch high continuously coved base at the floor/wall juncture. The base must be a minimum 3/8 inch radius cove.
  4. The lowest shelf in the cooler must be at least six inches off the floor.
  5. Provide adequate lighting with safety vapor globe covers. (H&SC 114170)
  6. Drain lines and electrical conduit must be mounted so as to facilitate cleaning. (H&SC 114155)
  7. All walk-in refrigeration units must open into an approved food handling area. Exception: Units approved for storage of products in original, unopened containers.
  8. Floor sinks are not to be located inside walk-in refrigerators. (Uniform Plumbing Code Sec. 604)
  1. In each food establishment toilet facilities for use by employees must be provided. Toilet facilities which are provided for use by patrons, must be so situated that patrons do not pass through food preparation, food storage or utensil washing areas. (H&SC 114105) Exception: Amusement parks, stadiums, arenas, retail shopping centers and similar premises which include food facilities and toilet facilities within their boundaries are not required to provide toilet facilities for employee use within each food establishment. In this instance, restroom facilities must be located within 300 feet of the food facility. (H&SC 114110)
  2. Two separate restrooms must be provided when there are five or more employees of different sex. (H&SC 114105)
  3. The restroom doors must be tight fitting and equipped with self-closing devices. (H&SC 114105)
  4. All restrooms must be provided with ventilation to the outside. If adequate ventilation cannot be provided by screened window opening or air shaft, mechanical ventilation is then required to be interconnected with the light switch. (H&SC 114149)
  5. Toilet and hand washing facilities are required for patrons in food establishments over 20,000 square feet. (H&SC 114120, 114130)
  1. Clothing change/storage enclosure(s) must be convenient. Enclosure must be separated from toilet, food storage, food preparation and utensil wash areas. (H&SC 114135)
  1. Provide janitorial facilities with hot and cold water with backflow protection. (H&SC 114165)
  2. Provide a one compartment, nonporous janitorial sink (i.e., stainless steel or cast iron) or slab, basin, or floor constructed of concrete or equivalent material, curbed and sloped to a drain. (H&SC 114165)
  3. Provide a rack, room, area or cabinet for the storage of mops and brooms and cleaning compounds separate from any food preparation, or storage area or utensil washing area. (H&SC 114165)
  4. Provide adequate storage for clean linens. (H&SC 114160)
  1. All buildings must be constructed so as to prevent entrance of insects and rodents.
  2. Air curtain devices when provided, must be permanently wired and installed so that the device will automatically operate whenever the door opens and must meet NSF performance standards.
  3. Self-closing devices on all doors opening to the outside are required.
  4. All operable windows must be screened with not less than 16 mesh screening.
  1. An adequately sized room or area for dry food storage must be provided. Floor space should be equal to 25% of food preparation area, or a minimum 100 square feet - which ever is greater. (H&SC 114080)
  1. Cleanable area such as concrete or asphalt. 

These requirements are based upon the California Health and Safety Code, Division 104 - Environmental Health Part 7; California Retail Food Code Chapter 1, General Provisions. Copies are free and available at both Environmental health Services office.

Technical Toolkit

Second Opinion

A second opinion is available on any interpretation or food facility plan review correction provided and will not affect the level of customer service you receive. We ask you to provide your interpretation of the retail food code or other applicable food safety certification standards along with any health and safety concerns that the interpretation may cause and how this will affect your proposed food facility project. The second opinion will come from one of our senior staff or a supervisor who will have a chance to take a deeper look at supporting documentation on both sides of the issue. This may occur at the counter or require a few days for proper research and understanding of the intent of the code in question, and whether any alternative options proposed are acceptable for your project.

return to Step 1: Plan Check
return to table of contents


Step 2: Your Health Permit 

A valid Health Permit is required for all food facilities to operate.

General Health Permit Information

A health permit issued from Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services is necessary for you to operate a food facility in this county. You must have this permit prominently displayed in your establishment at all times. Environmental Health Services' health permits are non-transferable. Therefore, if you are buying an existing business, you will need to apply for a Health Permit in your name.

Billing Cycle

Environmental Health Services utilizes an annual billing cycle for all food facilities with fee requirements based on the current EHS Fee Schedule. The annual billing cycle for a new facility is based on the month in which the application is received, and approval is granted, for a new health permit.  Thus, if your application for health permit is approved in April, then your annual permit cycle will be valid through April 30 of each year.  Thereafter, established food facilities are sent (via US Mail) an invoice for permit renewal approximately 4-6 weeks prior to the facility's current permit expiration date. Permit renewal payment is due no more than 30 days after Invoice date to prevent a lapse in valid permit. If your renewal fee is not paid by the date noted on the invoice, the permit fee is assessed penalties and you will not be in possession of a valid health permit; therefore, you will be out of compliance with state law.

For those businesses that have multiple programs at one facility (such as a food facility and a pool), the consolidated billing approach will show all annual fees on one invoice. If a program is added to an existing facility (such as a new pool for a hotel), that program will be placed on the same billing schedule as the other programs in that facility. If you are interested in getting more information about our billing process, please contact our fiscal division at 805-346-8464, our main desk in the Santa Barbara office at 805-681-4900, or Santa Maria office at 805-346-8460.


return to Step 2: Health Permit
return to table of contents


Step 3: Operating!

What you can expect from us, and what we'll expect from you.

Operational Information

Why Conduct Routine Inspections?

Environmental Health Services' top priority is to implement uniform, statewide health and sanitation standards for retail food facilities to ensure that food will be pure, safe, and unadulterated. We think that education and diligence are the best ways to achieve this goal. We conduct regular visits with you and your staff to make sure that your operation is running in a manner that does not jeopardize the public's health. During these inspections, Environmental Health Services staff will evaluate important food safety elements, and will often spend time answering questions, and demonstrating proper food storage and handling techniques to ensure adequate protection is provided to the public.

Inspection Frequency

Environmental Health Services staff try to visit each food facility twice per year for a routine inspection. During a routine inspection, your inspector will do a thorough evaluation of your facility to determine if all state laws are being followed and also to ensure that your operation is safe and clean. At the end of an inspection, your inspector will go over the report with you to show his/her findings. Sometimes, this report will contain minor violations that will require your follow up. These corrections are required and will be of special attention at the next 6 month inspection. 


If any of the routine or complaint related inspections reveal serious violations, we will set up a re-inspection date with you. If a second re-inspection is required, there will be an extra charge to you. We will work with you to correct these violations and avoid the temporarily closure of the facility. 

Food Borne Illness Complaints

In cases where Environmental Health Services receives a report of a food borne illness linked to your restaurant, we will do an immediate inspection of your facility (sometimes collecting samples of the suspected food). Any communication and follow up after that helps you avoid creating conditions which may foster food borne illnesses. Always remember that ill food handlers should not be allowed to work at the food facility. We have included in this package, a self inspection checklist to help you maintain a safe facility. When properly followed, the practices in the checklist will help you avoid food borne illnesses.

Self Inspection Checklist

This checklist will help you perform periodic reviews of your restaurant's operation. We suggest that you go through the checklist and check the items that are in compliance. Those not noted would be considered a violation during our inspection and would need to be corrected. We hope this checklist assists you in maintaining your restaurant at the highest standards.

  • Food is purchased from an approved source (a facility licensed by the county, state, or federal government)
    Food is inspected and found to be free from contamination, adulteration, and spoilage.
  • All foods are stored a minimum of 6" off the floor on commercial shelving.
  • Restrooms are not used for the storage of food, equipment, or supplies.
  • All food storage containers have tight fitting lids and are properly labeled.
  • Food products are labeled in an approved manner.
  • No sulfites are being used. Sulfites are prohibited.
  • Foods which have been served, or unpackaged food returned from the dining area are discarded.
  • Food, and food related products, are protected from dirt, unnecessary handling, overhead leakage, and other forms of contamination.
  • Foods are dispensed in the self-serve area in an approved manner (sneeze guard, fresh plates, proper temperatures, etc.).
  • All paper products are stored in a manner so as to protect them from contamination.
  • Potentially hazardous foods are maintained below 41° F or above 135° F at all times.
  • Food products are thawed in one of the following methods: (a) In refrigeration units; (b) under cold running, potable water with sufficient velocity to flush loose food particles; (c) in a microwave oven; or (d) as part of the cooking process.
  • Frozen food is maintained in a frozen state.
  • Thawed food items are not refrozen. Cooked or processed foods may be refrozen.
  • An accurate metal probe thermometer, suitable for measuring food temperatures, is readily available and is being used to check food temperatures daily. Thermometer is washed and sanitized regularly and is periodically calibrated.
  • A thermometer, accurate to + or -2° F, is provided either as an integral part of the refrigerator and freezer (dial outside), or is located inside of each unit at its warmest point.
  • Thermometers inside the refrigerators are readily visible.
  • Approved cooling, cooking, and reheating methods are being utilized.
  • Large amounts of potentially hazardous foods are not being prepared at room temperature.
  • Employees wash their hands with soap and warm water (a) before starting work; (b) immediately after using the restroom; and (c) any time needed to prevent food contamination.
  • Tongs or other implements are used for serving food products.
  • Employees are wearing clean outer garments.
  • Employees do not smoke or chew tobacco inside the facility.
  • Hair of employees is properly confined.
  • Clothing and personal effects are stored away from food areas in a proper manner.
  • Employees are not showing signs of illness or open sores.
  • All sinks are fully operational with hot and cold water at each faucet.
  • All sinks drain properly. Floor drains and floor sinks are in good working order and cleaned routinely.
  • Plumbing is in good repair.
  • Required sinks are present and available for use.
  • All equipment (i.e., stoves, grills, refrigerators, tables, sinks, soda and tea dispensers, etc.) is clean and well maintained.
  • Inoperable equipment has been repaired or replaced (or removed from the facility).
  • No equipment has been replaced, moved, modified, or added without prior approval from Environmental Health Services.
  • Equipment is NSF International approved or equivalent.
  • Equipment requiring floor sinks are provided with approved air gap to discharge line.
  • Multi-service utensils are being washed by one of the following means only:
    1. hand washing in a three compartment sink i. e., wash, rinse, sanitize, and air dry,
    2. chemical sanitizing (dish machine) conforming to NSF International standards.
    3. dishwasher (rinse water reaches at least 180° F).
  • Testing materials to adequately test sanitizing methods are readily available.
  • All utensils are clean and well maintained.
  • Damaged or unapproved utensils have been repaired or replaced.
  • Utensils are properly protected during storage.
  • Floors are clean, well maintained and in good repair.
  • Walls, ceilings, and windows are clean, well maintained and in good repair.
  • Hot water is provided at all times.
  • Toilet facilities are clean, well maintained and in good working order.
  • Single service soap and towel dispensers above all hand washing sinks are operable and full.
  • Toilet tissue dispensers are full.
  • Self closing doors in toilet and dressing rooms are working properly.
  • Legible hand washing signs are properly posted.