Last month when Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced his streamlining of city business licensing procedures, he chose Logan Square Kitchen as the location to herald this new day in better relations between the city and small businesses.
And so it's more than a little ironic that today LSK owner Zina Murray annouced on her website that her shared kitchen is closing at the end of June due to continued red tape from the city.
Here's an excerpt from and linkto her full post:
It’s a sad time when our government kills the very things that can heal our City. Logan Square Kitchen was designed to heal the local economy, environment and food system all at once. It was an innovative, bold idea that never had its chance. The Dept of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) began hammering nails in its coffin before we even opened our doors in 2009 and hasn’t stopped. Unfortunately, we see no end to regulatory burdens, which will continue to block our ability to grow a healthy business.
Murray says that the 20 businesses operating in her shared kitchen--which rents hourly cooking space to artisanal food entrepreneurs--will have to find new kitchens by June 28.
In 2011, after being inspected 11 times in nine months, Murray went public with complaints about what she saw as archaic business and licensing procedures that she felt punished Chicago's new entrepreneurs. The City's Department of Public Health acknowledged that the inspections were excessive and a result of old city codes that changed late last year.
But those changes and even more recent streamlining, she says, have not significantly improved things for shared kitchens like hers, which have incubated such popular food businesses as Floriole Bakery, Black Dog Gelato, Flora Confections, Nicecream and Eat Green Foods.
"When our licensing difficulties ceased, they were just beginning for our clients. Before the “helpful” Shared Kitchen Ordinance that took effect Sept. 1, 2011, we got clients licensed in a week or two. Of course, we had to be inspected by Health each time. Now, ... the inspections have stopped, but it takes 1-3 months and multiple trips to City Hall. Unfortunately, Mayor Emanuel’s new "streamlining" of business license ordinance that passed last week does not offer any streamlining for shared kitchens."
On Wednesday afternoon the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection responded to Murray's announcement:
"We are sorry to hear that an innovative, neighborhood business such as Logan Square Kitchen is closing. From Day 1, BACP worked with Logan Square kitchen to properly license their facility – just as other businesses with the same activities require – and even helped them with their state liquor license. BACP has not had any issues with LSK or issued any citations since assisting them through the permitting process. The City wants to help businesses while also ensuring that they are safe, sanitary, and operating legally. This is why we now have an emerging business permit to help new business models get up and running while we determine how to license and regulate."
LSK's Valentine's Day sale and other food events Murray hosted had become seasonal favorites for the city's artisanal food fans. But Murray characterizes her business' demise as unavoidable within the city's current business licensing framework.
"It should come as no surprise that we must close," Murray wrote. "LSK is collateral damage from choices that City employees make each day—people that have lost the ability to connect their actions with the consequences they cause. In all the many, many meetings I’ve had in City Hall in the past three years, there’s a question no one ever asks. “Is it good for our City?”