I've lurked here for a while and read threads about getting licensed, etc., extensively, but I'm not sure what to do with the situation I've just found myself in.
I rented kitchen space in WA state for the past five years, and was licensed this way. Had more liability insurance, etc., completely legit. We moved to AL (Shelby County) last year and I've been selling my baked goods at a state sanctioned farmer's market under the state's cottage food law. The markets are over in October, though, so I've been working to become licensed here. I called the health department a couple of months ago and was told I'd need to pay the license fee, that they would license me if I "rented" someone else's kitchen space, I'd just need my own license, insurance, etc. Pretty standard stuff. This was before I found someone; I just wanted to make sure it would be a possibility.
I found a small restaurant that is willing to let me use their kitchen space when they're not using it, so I called the health department again to find out where I needed to go from here. I spoke with a different person, the head of the department I believe, and he gave me completely different info. He said they do not license businesses who use someone else's kitchen. He said that basically the facility would be assuming all responsibility for my products; I would in essence be adding to their menu. If someone were made sick from my products, the facility would be liable, not me. Well, I could be over-thinking this, but that doesn't seem like a big draw for them to allow me to use their space.
I have no problem paying for my license, carrying my own insurance, etc., but now he's basically telling me that unless I use the area's incubator kitchen, I can sell whatever I want to individuals as long as I use a certified kitchen and they have a letter from the kitchen owner. But I have nothing "official" saying that I am a licensed food business. He had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned "shared use kitchen", "incubator kitchen", or "cottage food law". He said the other woman should know that's not how they do things since she's been here so long.
I want to call back and see if I can get the other woman I talked to, but don't want him to think I'm trying to go over his head or around his back, and he's been answering the phones today (I don't think they have a receptionist, or maybe she's out), but I'm not sure what to do. I've gotten two completely different accounts and just want to do things right. Any advice?
when I got a run around similar -- I went to the office for a face to face.
Thanks Doug. That will probably be best. I guess in the end it's really not a huge deal, and there's the whole "if there's a will, there's a way", but man, it's frustrating to think you've gotten all your ducks in a row and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel to just be set back like that. Oh well, I feel a bit better now. Thanks for allowing me to quasi-vent!
The requirements and law must be written. Ask for them to send you the written version or the code number so that you can look it up. That should clear up which person is incorrect.
The only way to find out who is right is to find the regulations governing food handling. You need to find the correct answer not the one that is more favorable to you. Talking to the woman who gave you the answer in person would not clarify things if she simply reiterates what she told you before. It may take some doing, but you should be able to find the regulations on line. When considering a home business I looked up the regulations for the state I am in. It took a little time to get the right search, but was not that hard. Or if you go in person get them to show you the regulations and read them for yourself.
I have a personal friend who has been a state senator for over 25 years. Only one time in our life have we ever called upon him to help us out with a situation (and it was, seriously, a life an death deal). His office was FABULOUS in connecting us with the correct agencies and people we needed to talk to. We've observed how his office helps his constituents all the time with getting in contact with the right people and helpiong them find the correct info.
So dont' be shy about utilizing your state senator or state representative's office for help, explaining how you're getting two different answers and you need their help to find out the correct story and how to find the written bill/rules on this topic. I've found they are super helpful!