After her application for a mobile vendor license was swiftly processed by state health inspectors and a temporary permit issued, Reilly Harvey said Friday she was bound once again for the waters of a remote Penobscot Bay anchorage where she sells lobster bakes boat to boat.
“I’m super grateful for their willingness to work with me,” Harvey said. “They told me, ‘We want to get you going this afternoon.’ ” A secretary walked her through the application, which she described as complicated. “It’s so overwhelming, and I’m an English major.”
Harvey’s one-woman business, Mainstay Provisions, raised issues with state inspectors after she was featured in a Portland Press Herald story Wednesday. She was told she needed to cease operations until she brought her boat, Mainstay, into compliance with the standards set for food trucks and other mobile food vendors around the state. Some of the standards seemed daunting, including equipping her 22-foot vintage launch with a three-bay sink and hot and cold running water.
The 37-year-old entrepreneur, who has decades of food service experience, has been running a boat-to-boat dinner service for three summers in an anchorage between High and Dix islands, which are part of the Muscle Ridge Islands. She serves clams, lobster, corn, salads, biscuits and desserts a la carte, or a full lobster bake for $50, and cooks the shellfish on a three-burner stove while pulled up alongside sailboats and cruisers.
The only way to patronize the seasonal Mainstay Provisions “restaurant” is by getting yourself, via private vessel, to the anchorage between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It is about 21/2 miles from Spruce Head. In the height of the summer, there may be as many as 30 boats anchored between High and Dix. Both islands were once quarried for granite and the spot is highly scenic.
Harvey grew up on nearby Andrews Island, the daughter of a lobsterman, and still has a summer camp there.
She said Friday that an inspector had issued the verbal go-ahead to go back out on the water, with a paper license good for 90 days to follow, as long as she equipped Mainstay with a stainless steel washing basin, a 5-gallon jug of town water (versus sea) and a bucket to drain the hot water into after she washes her hands.
She is also required to carry a thermometer to make sure her coolers stay at or below 40 degrees.
It’s Harvey’s understanding that the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which issues permits for home kitchens that serve the public, may still require that three-bay sink and will need to approve her kitchen at her home in Owls Head, where she prepares pies, tarts and other baked goods for her customers.
The state Division of Environmental Health will require Harvey to take and pass a food safety course, the same one at least one person on staff at Maine restaurants and food trucks must take.
But she’ll be allowed to put that off until she’s finished her brief season.
“I’m hoping that this will give other people the courage to work out of the box,” Harvey said.
She was elated to be back in business. “I’m going to go out and cook lobsters tonight,” she said Friday. “Which is good because I have reservations.”