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It was back in May that owners of Chicago's three shared-use kitchen incubators managed to get the ball rolling on a proposed city ordinance to clear up the sticky licensing issues that have so far been a bane for small food producers who want to go to work in their spaces. A draft was kicking around various city departments all summer, but Kitchen Chicago's Alexis Leverenz told me on Monday she hadn't heard a thing about it for months. Later that very day, the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection handed back the first draft. Here it is in its entirety (PDF), but if the turgid municipal code-ese doesn't thrill you, Leverenz has distilled its key points on her blog, namely:
—shared kitchen users can apply for short-term and long-term licenses
—users can work at any shared kitchen, not just one
—users don't need additional retail food or wholesale licenses. The shared kitchen license covers them
"I'm happy with it," says Leverenz. "I think it's more friendly to some of the small users who aren't quite sure how long they're gonna be using it."
Yet it isn't perfect. It requires what sure seems like a superfluous amount of record keeping. For instance, users are expected to notify the Health Department every time they plan to change their menu. Really? Nobody expects restaurants to do that. How about if they just announce it on Twitter?
Leverenz and her allies, Zina Murray of Logan Square Kitchen and Tonia Ojuluwayo of Splice Kitchen, are sending their feedback to the city on Friday. So far 27th Ward alderman Walter Burnett, the expected sponsor of the bill, hasn't answered my inquires as to when he might introduce the ordinance to the City Council.