If you missed it, KC owner Alexis Leverenz was on a segment of WTTW’s Chicago Tonight discussing the licensing flap. It was unfortunate that BACP and CDPH couldn’t make it, but they did send a written response. However, we take issue with some of their statement:
…Each business owner requires his or her own individual business license. There are other shared kitchens in Chicago that are operating accordingly.
We do not see very many shared kitchens, however there has never been any question to what the licensing requirements would be in this case.
There is a learning process going on here. A few weeks back when we met with BACP and CDPH in person we shared some details about how we run our business. Providing some visibility into a shared-use kitchen seemed to be appreciated, and I’d venture to say it eased their minds a bit about our operation.
However, based on the statement above, the City still seems to be lumping a lot of business models together, and that’s bad for making good policy decisions that support small businesses.
Based on our previous conversations with City reps, their idea of “shared kitchen” includes kitchens supporting multiple, non-rotating tenants. Let’s call them “multi-tenant” kitchens. These are places that have multiple businesses running out of them, but aren’t in the business of seeking new users. For example, a group of individuals starting together, or a restaurant/bakery renting out time during off-hours.
This is different than a shared-use kitchen. We are constantly seeking and accepting new users, and expanded our facility to support more of them. Our customers use the kitchen as needed, which could be monthly, weekly, daily, or seasonally. Some use us for years, some we only see once.
While the inspection & licensing policy approach for a “multi-tenant” kitchen can probably remain as is, the approach for users of a “shared-use” kitchen needs to be streamlined. Its unfeasible (and unnecessary) to expect the CDPH to have the resources to re-inspect a shared-use kitchen on a potentially weekly basis as new users start. Nor does the $660 (2 year) retail food establishment license make sense for many micro-business users of our kitchen, when they aren’t opening a kitchen establishment: they’re just using one. And it certainly doesn’t make sense for our larger business customers with their own licensed kitchens in Chicago, just in need of temporary extra capacity.
So, we’re stealing back the term “shared-use” kitchen to describe what we do. For some, a “multi-tenant” arrangement of a handful of non-changing businesses working out of a single kitchen makes sense. But its a different type of business, and needs to be handled differently than the dynamic nature of a “shared-use” kitchen.