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City: Shaved ice kiosk may put out tables & chairs
Shaved ice Ceres
Heaven’s Snow shaved ice kiosk on Central Avenue can now offer tables and chairs to its customers without fear of city code enforcement taking action to cease. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Sometimes it pays to speak up and the owners of Ceres’ only shaved ice kiosk learned that this week.

Violet Saveh went before the Ceres City Council last week to ask members to step in and give her and her husband the ability to operate with outdoor table and chairs for customers. She said that the conditions of their permit for Heaven’s Snow shaved ice kiosk changed between 2020 and 2021. Last year’s permit mentioned Gov. Newsom’s restrictions that product can only be sold on a take-out basis only with no outdoor seating or tables. She said the new permit struck any mention of the state regulations but also forbids tables and chairs. Saveh suggested that since the county is in the red tier, outdoor as well as indoor seating is allowed with regulations.

Saveh asked the council “to please take a look at the findings and if possible please reverse back to having our tables and chairs and our shade at 105-110 degree weather.”

City Manager Tom Westbrook said the issue wasn’t about COVID-19 but a mistake on his part. He initially believed that the business was never allowed to have outdoor tables, chairs and awning next to its kiosk since it first opened in March 1996.

“They had been permitted in the past and the tables and chairs would be removed each day,” said Westbrook. “We are going to amend the letter and reissue so that Violet will be able to have tables and chairs once again. I just phoned Violet and left her that message.”

Westbrook said that when the council decided to allow mobile food vendors such as taco trucks on a trial basis, tables and chairs were expressly not allowed because the city doesn’t want people congregating around them.

The couple has had the Heaven’s Snow shaved ice shack in the parking lot of La Sequoia Market on Central Avenue since March 18, 1996. Violet said that they’ve never had a problem with crowds blocking sidewalks.

In February 2020, the snow-cone kiosk business appealed to the City Council to rethink limiting its operation to 180 days out of the year through the administrative permit process. Owners of the flavored ice business sought permission to operate year-round on the site of La Sequoia Market on Central Avenue. Chris Vierra, the mayor last year, spoke for the council when he told the couple that if the business wants to operate year-round they should consider a brick-and-mortar storefront.