Don't Be a Couch Potato

Popular Bakery Battling to Stay Alive After Being Shut Down

Fluff Bake Bar's new location has been closed for a month because of a slew of unexpected interior work.

By Timothy Malcolm August 18, 2020

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I am notoriously famous for not asking for help because I am of the mindset I can do it when I put my mind to it... well, this one has gotten the best of me. And well, we need some help. Here's the story... So why is fluff temporarily closed? Because the City of Houston Health Dept has deemed me to be a “bootleg bakery.” Despite being issued both a food dealers permit and a grease trap permit on 03/14/2020 and having said grease trap approved by the inspector, they are now saying that all construction performed PRIOR (construction not ordered by me) to me taking possession of the property on 01/27/2020 was done without plans or permits. But I am the one operating the business therefore I am the one at fault. I applied for and paid for the COO permit and went through all necessary inspections. We passed all but structural because we need to install a hood vent over the ovens. In the process of submitting those plans to obtain the permit, the inspectors then realized that the contractor that was used PRIOR to me taking possession of the property did not submit plans to the city. So I have been ordered to temporarily close the shop and start from square one with plan review and inspections. The COH Health Dept claims that the 3 employees involved in passing and issuing the permits (pictured below) did not do their job correctly and now these permits that were issued and I paid for are null and void. So I am paying the very HEFTY price of incompetence by the Health Dept and the contractor who performed the work prior to moving into the building. The COH planning department has issued us over $25,000 in corrections including but not limited to removing the grease trap from inside the building and placing it outside, replacing all plumbing lines inside of the building to update them to current codes, remodeling the bathrooms to have one male and one female bathroom that has a sink and toilet in each (for an occupancy load of 19), replacing the hot water heater to a larger unit and of course, installing the hood vent we were working on doing when they decided we were a "bootleg" bakery.

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About a month ago, Fluff Bake Bar closed its new Heights location to, as owner Rebecca Masson wrote on Instagram, "finish some construction projects." Those projects, which according to Masson were ordered by the City of Houston Department of Health, come at a heavy cost for the bakery.

On Tuesday Masson took to Instagram to ask customers for help after revealing the details of her temporary closing. She wrote that she had to shut down her facility despite originally being given the go-ahead to operate.

Masson told Houstonia that she was given a temporary certificate of occupancy after going through inspections with the city, but the Department of Health ordered she install a hood vent over the ovens. It was during that time that she said the Department of Health told her she did illegal construction because it had no knowledge of a grease trap installed inside the property, even after a grease inspector passed Fluff. Masson said that she didn't have the grease trap installed, and that the work was done before she signed the lease.

"When I took possession of the space a majority of the construction had already been done and not by me," Masson said. 

Consequently, she said her permits—which she was informed by the Department of Health were incorrectly issued—have been voided and she needs to relocate the grease trap, plus replace all interior plumbing lines, remodel the bathrooms, replace the hot water heater, and install a hood vent. She wrote the projects would cost more than $25,000.

"I just can't give up on my dream that I built nine years ago," she wrote. "I have overcome huge obstacles but this one is just too big for me."

A GoFundMe has been created to help Fluff. In two hours it had already raised $10,015 (as of 3:15 p.m. Tuesday), nearly half of its $25,000 goal. Masson said she's overwhelmed with the positive response from fans and supporters.

"I can't even describe the feeling. I cried good tears today instead of the shitty tears yesterday," she said. "To even post what I posted is hard for me ... I like to maintain that I'm doing OK. And I know it's not me who messed up here but I feel like it is me who messed up."

Masson said the plumbing work is currently being done at the shop, and once that is completely approved by inspectors the other work can proceed. She has no timetable for a re-opening yet, and while she was doing some popups previously during her closure, she said it's not the most cost-effective route for her. Right now she has to hope she can start baking in her facility again.

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