A new state law dismantles a hurdle for startup food vendors
Published: October 27, 2011
“I would say its Russian Roulette,” Jones says. “And eventually, you’re going to lose.” He rattled off a list of the dangers that a cottage operation could pose – such as the use of wooden cutting boards, outlawed in licensed Florida kitchens because they can harbor bacteria – and suggested that the exacting kitchen specifications spelled out by the state exist for good reason. “We have much more of a controlled environment [in a licensed kitchen], whereas at home, there is no controlled environment,” Jones says.
Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of enthusiasm for the new cottage law are the smaller regulatory forces – the counties, cities and farmers markets themselves – which, at least in Central Florida, don’t appear to be anywhere near in harmony with the state. The Winter Park City Commission, for instance, decided on Aug. 22 that it would still require food vendors at its farmers market to be licensed by the state. In addition, it’s still illegal in Orange County to sell food out of your home, though county officials could not give the Orlando Weekly a clear answer as to whether the laws would be changed to accommodate cottage operations. “Are we then turning all these residential units into commercial-type ventures where people can come and go as they please?” Tim Boldig, the county zoning chief, wondered aloud. “We’ve got to figure that out.”
The city of Orlando is also uncertain what it will do – it has not yet added the “cottage food operations” category to its home occupation application form, and spokeswoman Cassandra Lafser says the city is still “conducting research into this area as it is a newer classification.”
Given the enduring confusion over which cottage operations are legal everywhere – and the somewhat unnerving possibility that the state reserves the right to inspect your home kitchen after receiving a consumer complaint – some local confectionary entrepreneurs, like Kelly Burroughs of Ruby’s Sweetery, are opting to shell out the money for licensing anyway. “I think it’s just peace of mind for me,” she says. “Knowing that I’m protected.”
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