Two big reasons Chicago has a vibrant food culture are the Green City Market and shared-use kitchens like Kitchen Chicago, which permit small culinary businesses to get started in a commercially-licensed facility. Some of the Green City's Market's most beloved purveyors, such as Floriole and Hoosier Mama, started out at Kitchen Chicago, which, in the most desperate of economic times, opened a brand new facility last year. Kitchen Chicago and the more recently opened Logan Square Kitchen, which has LEED certification, enable people like me to work in a setting compliant with the city's health code, develop a clientele, and grow their businesses enough to afford kitchen space of their own - all while protecting the public health.
The problem is that the city has never developed a coherent licensing process for businesses that work in these facilities. We have been told alternately that we are ineligible for licenses since there is only one license permitted per address or more recently, that we must have individual licenses rather than operating under the umbrella of the kitchen operator. Monica Eng could not have told the story better in her recent Tribune blog post. So I will leave it to her to showcase the fallout from this lack of accountability among the city's licensing and public health operations.