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Environmental Health Division
Environmental Health Division

Construction Guide for Food Facilities

INDEX TO THE CONSTRUCTION GUIDE DOCUMENT: Use the following shortcuts to navigate this document and obtain more information about requirements on any of the following topics:


Plan Check Fees 

Plan Submittal Process 

Field Contstruction Inspections 

General Construction and Equipment Requirements:


  • This Construction Guide is available to any person intending to construct or remodel a food facility in Berkeley. It is intended to serve as a general overview of the requirements and should not be considered all inclusive. Please contact the City of Berkeley, Division of Environmental Health at (510) 981-5310, if you require further information regarding your particular plan.
  • A separate construction guide for food facilities which handle only prepackaged food is also available upon request.
  • Clients should be aware that all construction work must conform to local building codes. Clients must obtain the necessary approvals from the local building and fire authorities prior to construction.

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  • A Plan Check fee must be paid at the time of Plan submittal.  The fee is based upon square footage.  Current fee schedules are available upon request.  Please contact the City of Berkeley, Division of Environmental Health at (510) 981-5310, if you require further information regarding fees.
  • A remodel is any construction or alteration to an existing food facility.  Remodeling also includes the installation of equipment or repairs to a food facility which alter its configuration or method of operation.  Remodel does not include the following types of construction, which would be considered new construction:

1. Installation of a food facility in a new structure, or in an empty building shell.

2. Installation of a food facility in a former nonfood related facility, such as a shoe store, or into a former food facility from which all equipment and interior structures have been removed.

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  • Before constructing, enlarging, altering or converting any building for use as a food facility, two (2) sets of detailed plans and specifications must be submitted to the City of Berkeley Permit Service Center and routed to the Environmental Health Division for approval.  Plans may be prepared by an architect, draftsman, contractor, or owner.  All plans must be drawn in a professional manner encompassing all applicable requirements of this construction guide.
  • After plans have been approved and stamped, one copy will be returned to the person submitting the plans and the second copy will be kept on file with the Environmental Health Division until construction has been completed.  One of the two copies of approved plans that are returned must be kept on the jobsite until the Health Permit has been issued.
  • Plans shall be drawn to scale, i.e., ¼" = 1’, using nonerasable ink or print (no pencil), and shall include:

1. A site plan showing the proposed rubbish and food waste storage receptacle location.

2. Complete floor plan with plumbing and electrical outlets and electrical panels.

3. Remodel plans shall identify all proposed changes to existing structures, spaces, and equipment.

4. Complete equipment layout, including elevations of equipment and equipment specifications.

5. Complete exhaust ventilation plans, including make-up air. Indicate the type of comfort cooling in building, (e.g. "building is cooled by refrigerated air conditioning’, "evaporative cooling" or "no cooling system is installed").

6. Finish schedule for walls, ceilings and floors that indicates the type of material, the surface finish, the color and the type of coved base at the floor/wall juncture. Samples of proposed finish materials should be submitted with the plans.

7. A statement of the proposed customer seating capacity, when applicable.

8. Location of the manager’s or chef’s office. Spaces such as change rooms or food storage cannot be used for office space.

  • Plans that are incomplete, and plans that have a multitude of changes will require revisions before approval may be granted.
  • If any changes to the approved plans are proposed, they must be reviewed and reapproved by the Environmental Health Division prior to being implemented.
  • Approved materials and good workmanship are significant factors in the evaluation and final field approval of food facility construction and equipment installation.
  • All equipment design, construction and installation is subject to approval by this Agency. Food-related and utensil-related equipment must meet or be equivalent to applicable ANSI certified sanitation standards, such as NSF International Food Service Equipment Standards.

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When construction finished work is approximately 75% to 80% completed, with plumbing, rough ventilation, and rough equipment installed, you must call the Environmental Health Plan Checker assigned to review your plans for a preliminary construction inspection. Requests should be made at least two (2) working days in advance. The preliminary inspection should be scheduled at least two weeks prior to the proposed opening of the food facility.


Upon completion of 100% of the construction, including all finishing work, you must call the Environmental Health Plan Checker assigned to review your plans to arrange for a final construction inspection. You will not be issued a Health permit until the facility passes a final inspection. Contact your Plan Checker at least two (2) working days in advance for an appointment for the final inspection. Final construction must be approved by this Agency prior to opening for business or use of remodeled areas.

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The plans shall show and specify in detail the following information.


a.  Floors in food facilities (customer area floor requirements are less stringent) shall be smooth and impervious to water, grease and acid, and of easily cleanable construction. Floor surfaces in all areas where food is prepared, packaged or stored, where janitorial facilities are located, in all toilet and handwashing areas and in employee change and storage areas, shall be an approved type that continues up the wall or toe-kicks, at least four (4) inches, in a seamless manner, with a 3/8 inch minimum radius cove. An approved slim foot ceramic, quarry or metal topset base is generally acceptable. (Vinyl or rubber topset base is not acceptable, except in dining areas and areas where food is stored in its original shipping container, such as in a supermarket warehouse.)

b.  Floor drains are required in floors that are water-flushed for cleaning, where pressure spray methods for cleaning equipment are used, where slip resistant agents are used on floors and where excessive moisture may accumulate, such as in food processing plants. Where floor drains are utilized, the floor surface shall be sloped 1:50 to the floor drains.

c.  High pressure hot water cleaning systems are required in addition to floor drains if the degree of roughness of the slip resistant agent is deemed excessive upon evaluation by this Division.

d.  Flooring under equipment and on the coved bases shall be completely smooth. Floor surfaces which contain slip resistant agents shall be restricted to traffic areas only.

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a.  Walls and ceilings in all rooms, except as provided in (b) shall be smooth and nonabsorbent, with a light colored, easily cleanable finish. (Note: light colored is defined as having a light reflectance value of 70% or greater.)

b.  Wall and ceiling surface requirements in areas such as dining, sales, exhibition food handling and customer areas are less stringent. Alternative finish colors will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

c.  Wall materials other than smooth plaster or putty coat plaster, drywall with sealed and taped joints or plywood with properly sealed joints require submission of a sample.

d.  All wall surfaces shall be sealed with a gloss or semi gloss enamel, epoxy, varnish, or other approved sealer.

e.  Other wall and ceiling surface materials are subject to evaluation and compliance with the same or similar requirements prior to installation.

f.  Acoustical ceiling tile may be approved if it complies with the preceding requirements and if a sample is submitted and approved by this Division.

g.  Acoustical plaster is not an acceptable ceiling finish in the food and utensil handling areas.

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a.  All plumbing, electrical, and gas lines shall be concealed within the building structure to as great an extent as possible. Where this is not possible, all runs shall be at least ½ inch away from walls or ceiling and six (6) inches off the floor.

b.  Where conduit or pipe lines enter a wall, ceiling or floor, the opening around the line shall be tightly sealed.

c.  Conduit or pipe lines shall not be installed across any aisle, traffic area or door opening.

d.  Multiple runs or clusters of conduit or pipe lines shall be furred in, encased in an approved runway or other sealed enclosure approved by this Division.

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Exhaust Hoods and Ducts:

a.  Mechanical exhaust ventilation shall be required at or above all cooking equipment such as ranges, griddles, ovens, deep fat fryers, barbecues and rotisseries to effectively remove cooking odors, smoke, steam, grease and vapors.

b.  All hoods, ducts, and exhaust outlets shall be installed in accordance with the current edition of the Uniform Mechanical Code as adopted by the local building department.

c.  All joints and seams shall be tight or soldered for ease of cleaning. Riveted seams are not acceptable.

d.  Food heating or warming devices, cheese melters, etc., that are installed above other equipment beneath an exhaust hood, may create an air flow obstruction to proper ventilation of the equipment for which the hood ventilation system is designed. The design, construction and installation of such warming devices under a hood are subject to evaluation and approval by this Agency prior to installation.

e.  Canopy-Type Hoods: The lower lip of canopy-type hoods shall not be more than seven (7) feet above the floor and shall not be more than four (4) feet above the cooking surface. The hood shall overhang or extend a horizontal distance not less than six (6) inches beyond the outer edges of the cooking surfaces, on all open sides. It shall have grease troughs and drip pans that are easily cleanable.

f.  Noncanopy-Type Hoods: Noncanopy-type hoods will be approved providing they are constructed to be easily cleanable and they comply with minimum exhaust air velocity requirements. Shielding at the ends of the hood may be necessary to prevent interference from cross drafts.

g.  Make-Up Air: Make-up air shall be provided at least equal to that amount which is mechanically exhausted. Windows and doors shall not be used for the purpose of providing make-up air.

h.  Fire Extinguishing Systems: Fire extinguishing systems may be required by local fire department codes. They shall be installed so as to allow easy clean ability of the hood and duct systems, and whenever possible, shall not be installed above food or utensil handling areas.

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a.  All refrigeration units shall be adequate in capacity to the needs to the proposed operation and shall comply with the following requirements:

1. Be capable of operating so as to maintain the refrigerated foods at or below 41° Fahrenheit at all times.

2. Be specifically constructed for commercial use (domestic model refrigeration units will not be accepted).

3. Be provided with an accurate, readily visible thermometer.

4. Have shelving that is nonabsorbent and easily cleanable.

5. Have smooth, nonabsorbent and easily cleanable surfaces.  If cement, plywood, or other similar absorbent materials are used, the surfaces must be sealed. All joints must be sealed.

6. Condensate waste from reach-in refrigeration units shall be drained into a floor sink or an approved evaporator unit.

7. Cooling coils and related electrical, drainage and refrigerant lines shall be installed in a safe and easily cleanable manner. Drainage and refrigerant lines shall be constructed of nontoxic materials or properly insulated and covered with an approved, easily cleanable and nontoxic material.

b.  Walk-in Refrigeration Units shall also:

1. Have a coved base with a radius of at least 3/8 inch at the floor/wall juncture; the floor material shall extend up to a height of at least four (4) inches on the walls. Four (4) inch approved metal topset coving with a minimum 3/8 inch radius is acceptable against metal wall surfaces of walk-in refrigeration units. Samples of flooring materials must be submitted for approval, to this Division, prior to installation.

2. Open into an area with approved finishes within the facility. Refrigeration units may not open into the customer area or directly outside, with the exception of customer self-serve prepackaged refrigeration units.

3. Have shelving that is at least six (6) inches off the floor with smooth, easily cleanable legs, or cantilevered from the wall, for ease of cleaning. Small, easily movable, castered dollies may be used in place of a lower shelf inside a walk-in refrigeration unit.

4. Have condensate waste drained into a floor sink. The floor sink is not to be located inside the walk-in refrigeration unit.

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Ice Machines:

All ice machines shall be located within the building in an easily cleanable, well ventilated area, and shall be drained to a floor sink.

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Floor Sinks:

a.  All condensate and similar liquid waste shall be drained by means of indirect waste pipes into an open floor sink.

b.  Floor sinks shall be installed flush with the floor surface, unless local building authorities require a raised floor sink.

c.  Horizontal runs of drain lines shall be at least ½ inch from the wall and six (6) inches off the floor and shall terminate at least one (1) inch above the overflow rim of the floor sink.

d.  Floor sinks shall be located so that they are readily accessible for inspection, cleaning and repair. The floor sink must be located within 15 feet of the drain opening of the equipment served.

e.  Waste lines may not cross any aisle, traffic area or door opening.

f.  Floor sinks or floor drains are not permitted inside walk-in refrigeration units.

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Utensil Sink:

a.  Where multiservice utensils, i.e. pots, pans, etc., are utilized, there shall be provided at least a three (3) compartment stainless steel sink with dual, integrally installed stainless steel drainboards. This sink must have an indirect connection to a floor sink.

b.  A separate, approved three (3)-compartment sink must be installed within each department in a grocery store which handles unpackaged foods, i.e., deli, meat, bakery, etc., and remote food service operations in restaurants, i.e., sushi bars, espresso bars, oyster bars, etc.

c.  The minimum compartment sizes shall be at least 18" x 18" x 12" deep with minimum 18" x 18" drainboards, or 16" x 20" x 12" deep with 16" x 20" drainboards.  The sink must otherwise be capable of accommodating the largest utensil to be washed, and the drainboards shall be as large as the largest sink compartment.

d.  When a sink is installed next to a wall, a stainless steel "backsplash" extending up the wall at least eight (8) inches shall be formed as an integral part of the sink, and be sealed to the wall. The ends of the sink must be installed with a minimum two (2) inch separation from walls or be equipped with integrally installed "end returns".

e.  Additional drainboard space or storage racks may be required where multi-service customer eating and drinking utensils are used.

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Bar Sink:

Where alcoholic beverages are served, the facility must provide an approved three (3) compartment bar sink with minimum 10" x 14" x 10" deep compartments with 18" long dual, integrally installed stainless steel drainboards and "backsplash". This sink must have an indirect connection to a floor sink. A bar sink equipped with a fourth dumping compartment is strongly recommended.

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Automatic Dish Machines:

a.  All automatic dish machines must meet or be equivalent to applicable NSF International Standards.

b.  All spray type dish machines which are designed for a hot water sanitizing rinse shall be provided with a booster heater, or be connected to an approved recirculating water system which is capable of maintaining the rinse water at not less than 180º Fahrenheit.

c.  The dish machines must also be provided with thermometers and pressure gauges to indicate the proper water flow pressures, and temperatures.

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Garbage Disposals:

This Division does not require garbage disposals. When a garbage disposal is installed it may be installed in a drainboard if the drainboard is lengthened to accommodate the disposal cone in addition to the minimum required drainboard size. Garbage disposals may not be installed under a required sink compartment unless an additional compartment is provided for the disposal.

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Janitorial Sink:

a.  A one-compartment, wall-mounted janitorial sink with hot and cold running water shall be installed for general cleanup activities. Cement tubs are not acceptable.

b.  A curbed area properly sloped to a drain, that is provided with hot and cold running water, a mixing faucet and an approved backflow prevention device, is also acceptable. All curbed area surfaces shall be of smooth, impervious, and easily cleanable construction. Where duckboards or floor mats are used, a curbed area with a drain is required.

c.  Free standing janitorial sinks must be provided with easily cleanable legs. Legs with "L" angles will not be accepted.

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Handwashing Sinks:

a.  Handwashing sink(s) shall be provided in the food preparation areas.

b.  Soap and sanitary towels shall be provided in single-service, permanently installed dispensers at all handwashing sinks.

c.  A separate, approved handwashing sink must be installed within each department in a grocery store which handles unpackaged food, i.e.., deli, meat, bakery, etc., and remote food service operations in restaurants, i.e., sushi bars, espresso bars, oyster bars, etc.

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Food Preparation Sinks:

Food facilities that prepare raw vegetables or meat may be required to have a food preparation sink. This sink must have an indirect connection to a floor sink.

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General Purpose Hot Water:

a.  Provide a water heater which is capable of constantly supplying hot water at a temperature of at least 120°F Fahrenheit to all sinks, and other cleanup facilities. In sizing the water heater, the peak hourly demands for all sinks, etc., are added together to determine the minimum required recovery rate.

b.  A water heater should not be purchased until this Division determines the minimum required size for the food facility.

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Dipper Well:

A running water dipper well must be provided if scoops are used for dipping ice cream. The dipper well shall be drained by an indirect connection to a floor sink.

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Window Screens:

All openable windows, such as restroom windows, shall be screened with not less than 16 mesh screening.

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Service of Unpackaged Foods Directly to or by the Customer:

Displays of unpackaged foods shall be shielded so as to intercept a direct line between the customer’s mouth and the food being displayed, or shall be dispensed from approved self-service containers. (Request this Division’s policy memorandums for detailed requirements regarding sneezeguards, buffets, salad bars, and bulk food operations.)

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Backup Dry Food and Beverage Storage:

a.  Adequate and suitable floor space shall be provided for the storage of food, beverages, and related products. In addition to working storage and refrigeration storage, additional backup storage must be provided. Working storage is considered to be cabinets over and under food handling equipment and wall mounted shelves which are located in and used in conjunction with food preparation areas. Reference the following to determine the minimum amount of backup storage space which will be required:

1.  Within food facilities that have food preparation areas which total 400 square feet or less and have 100 customer seats or less, a minimum 100 square feet of floor space shall be dedicated for backup dry food storage. At least 32 linear feet of approved shelving units shall be installed in the 100 square feet of dedicated floor space.

2.  Within food facilities that have food preparation areas which total more than 400 square feet, or more than 100 customer seats, the floor space required for backup dry food storage shall be determined by dedicating one square foot of floor space per customer seat, or by dedicating a space equal to 25% of the food preparation area, whichever is greater. The quantity of shelving units to be installed in this dedicated space shall be based upon whichever of the following formulas provides the greater amount of shelving:

(a)  Required linear footage of shelving units=32 x (seating capacity) divided by 100

(b)  Required linear footage of shelving units=32 x (sq. ft. of preparation areas) divided by 400

3.  Where remote dry food and beverage storage is proposed, at least half of the required storage must be located within the food preparation areas. The remaining storage must be located within the food facility in an approved storage room.

4.  Each department in a grocery store which handles unpackaged foods, i.e., deli, meat, bakery, etc., must provide at least 32 linear feet of approved shelving units.

5.  Within produce departments of grocery stores or produce stores (produce only), a segregated room or area with at least 50 square feet of floor space shall be dedicated for backup storage of food and packaging supplies. At least 16 linear feet of approved shelving units shall be installed in the 50 square feet of dedicated floor space.

6.  Within bars/taverns, a segregated room or area with at least 50 square feet of floor space shall be dedicated for backup beverage and bar supply storage. At least 16 linear feet of approved shelving units shall be installed in the 50 square feet of dedicated floor space. When a bar is located within a restaurant, the backup storage requirement for the bar must be provided in addition to the required backup dry food storage.

7.  Remote food service operations in restaurants, such as sushi bars and espresso bars, must provide at least 16 linear feet of approved shelving units.

b.  A shelving unit shall be a minimum 18 inches in depth and three tiers high. For example, eight shelving units, each of which is four feet long and three tiers high, would equal 32 linear feet of shelving units.

c.  Shelving shall be constructed in an easily cleanable design of smooth metal or wood which has been finished and sealed. Shelves installed on a wall shall have at least one (1) inch of open space between the back edge of the shelf and the wall surface, otherwise, the back edge of the shelf shall be sealed to the wall with silicone sealant or equivalent. The lowest shelf shall be at least six (6) inches above the floor, with a clear unobstructed area below or be the upper surface of a completely sealed continuously coved base, with a minimum height of six (6) inches. All shelves located below a counter or work surface shall be set back at least two (2) inches from the drip line of the surface above. If shelves are supported by legs on the floor, the legs shall be smooth and easily cleanable.

d.  Electrical panels, large fire prevention system components or similar wall-mounted equipment shall not be installed in food storage rooms unless adequate approved provision is made to compensate for the space required for the installation.

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a.  Toilet facilities shall be provided within each food facility convenient for the employees.

b.  The number of toilet facilities required shall be in accordance with local building and plumbing ordinance.

c.  Toilet facilities shall be so situated that patrons do not pass through food preparation, food storage, or utensils washing areas when they are allowed access to the toilet facilities.

d.  The floors, walls, and ceiling shall have surfaces that are smooth, nonabsorbent, and easily cleanable.

e.  Handwashing sinks shall be provided within each toilet room.  The sink shall be provided with hot and cold running water from a mixing type faucet. Soap and sanitary towels in single-service, permanently installed dispensers shall be provided at the handwashing sink.

f.  Toilet tissue shall be provided in a permanently installed dispenser at each toilet.

g.  The restrooms shall be provided with tight-fitting, self-closing doors.

h.  All toilet rooms shall be provided with ventilation. If adequate ventilation cannot be provided by an openable, screened window, mechanical ventilation will be required.

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Clothing Change Rooms/Designated Areas:

a. Change Rooms

1.  A room or enclosure, with a minimum size of 4’ x 5’, separated from toilet, food storage, and food preparation areas, shall be provided where employees may change and store their outer garments and personal belongings. When the number of employees exceeds 10 on a given shift, two (2) square feet per employee must be provided. This requirement may be met by providing either one large change room or two (2) smaller rooms (each a minimum of 4’ x 5’).

2.  The clothing change room may not be used as an office.

3. No telephone jacks, computer jacks, water heaters or other appurtenances will be accepted in this room.

b. Designated Areas

1.  A designated area may be substituted for a change room if the facility has less than five employees per shift.

2.  The designated area must be physically segregated from toilet rooms, food storage areas, food preparation areas, and utensil washing areas by approved partition or walls.

3.   Within the designated area, one locker (minimum 12" x 18" x 36") per employee on a given shift must be provided.

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Pass-Through Windows:

a.  When food is passed through a window to a customer on the outside of the building, the size of the window opening may not exceed 432 square inches.

b.  The minimum distance between pass-through windows is 18 inches.

c.  All openings must be equipped with a sliding closure device (e.g. glass, screen). This device must be kept closed except when food is being passed out to the customer.

d.  The counter surface of the pass-through window must be smooth, free of channels and crevices, and be easily cleanable.

e.  The pass-through window shall be equipped with an insect exclusion device which will produce an air flow eight inches thick at the discharge opening and an air velocity of 750 feet per minute as measured three (3) feet below the device. The air flow must continue along the entire horizontal width of the window opening. If the pass-through window opening is less than 216 square inches, an insect exclusion device will not be required.

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a.  All dedicated delivery doors leading to the outside shall open outward, be self-closing, and shall be provided with an overhead insect exclusion device. For delivery doors four (4) feet in width or less, the air curtain, when installed inside the building, must produce a downward-outward air flow not less than eight (8) inches thick at the discharge opening and with an air velocity of not less than 750 feet per minute across the entire opening as measured at a point three feet above the floor. For delivery doors wider than four (4) feet, the air curtain device must produce an air flow at least 1600 feet per minute, as measured three (3) feet above the floor. The device shall activate (turn on) automatically when the door is opened. When installed outside the building, the same velocity of air must be directed straight down over the entire door opening.

b.  All combination customer entrance/delivery doors leading to the outside shall open outward, be self-closing and provide an effective means to prevent the entrance of insects. Refrigerated, positive pressure air conditioning with all doors self-closing is an acceptable method. The need for an air curtain device at a customer/delivery door will be determined on a case-by-case basis. An electrical outlet must be provided near the door in the event an air curtain must be installed at a later date.

c.  Large cargo-type doors shall not open directly into a food preparation area.

d.  An insect exclusion device is not a substitute that would permit a door to remain open.

e.  Multiple door installations, such as French-style doors, that "open up" the proposed food establishment are not permitted. Only those doors that are necessary and reasonable for ingress and egress to and from the facility will be accepted.

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Garbage and Trash Area:

a.  An area shall be provided for the storage and cleaning of garbage and trash containers.

b.  The walls, floor and ceiling of this room or area shall be constructed so as to be smooth, impervious and easily cleanable.

c.  Outside trash storage areas should be situated as far away from delivery doors as possible.

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a.  All food preparation areas, all dishwashing areas, and all bar and fountain glass washing sinks (except where alcoholic beverage utensils are washed), shall be provided with at least 20 foot-candles of light, as measured 30 inches above the floor.

b.  Food and utensil storage rooms, refrigeration storage, toilet rooms, and dressing rooms shall be provided with at least 10 food-candles of light.

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a.  All show and display cases, counters, shelves, refrigeration equipment, sinks and other equipment used in connection with the service and display of food, shall be made of nontoxic materials and so constructed and installed as to be easily cleanable.

b.  All equipment shall be placed on minimum six (6) inch high, easily cleanable legs or on a four (4) inch high continuously coved curb, or on approved casters, or cantilevered from the wall in an approved manner.

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Water and Sewage Disposal:

All liquid waste, including sewage, generated by a food facility, shall be disposed of in an approved manner into a public sewer system.

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Special Requirements:

There are special requirements for the following:

a.  Satellite food distribution facilities

b.  Undercounter dish machines

c.  Self-service of food from bulk food containers

d.  Sneezeguards

e.  Buffets and salad bars

f.  Bed and breakfast facilities

g.  Open-air barbecue facilities

h.  Open-air bar facilities

i.  Food cart commissaries

j.  Finish colors in food facilities

If any of these are relevant to your proposed plan, please contact the Division of Environmental Health for further information prior to submission of plans.

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