Thanks again to everyone who gave pointers on how to get over my wall!
I looked up the food code and found nothing addressing my situation (wanting to rent kitchen space from an established restaurant kitchen for my cake business). I thought it was likely just me not understanding the code. I looked throughout the administrative code of my state. I called my Cooperative Extension agent and emailed another who in turn contacted the head of Food and Lodging for the AL Dept. of Health. He informed me that the food code doesn't address this type of situation, and it's been left up to each locality to determine how they would like to handle it. He said in my case, my local health department just thought it would be "easiest" for everyone involved to have me fall under someone else's permit, and if that's how they wanted to handle it, there's not much I could do about it.
I did find out that I could still carry my own liability insurance, but the health department still wants a letter from the restaurant stating that they understand they "assume responsibility for her and her product." Still not acceptable in my eyes. I know the woman I spoke with at the health department a few months ago told me I could become licensed by using someone else's kitchen, as long as they were not in the kitchen when I was. Really though, that's neither here nor there. They've since decided they don't want to do that.
They do keep pushing me to go to the incubator in the county because "that would just be so much better and they're looking to make some money" (they're allowed three tenants, they've got one, one just fell through). I went and checked it out and it's a decent space. I'd have dry storage and cooler and freezer space included in my rent, as well as use of the dining room (they don't use it) during my hours for use with consultations, etc. The downside is I'd be paying for that space whether or not I used it, which wasn't an issue at the restaurant. Additionally, if another tenant comes in, that's less time that the kitchen will be available for me when/if I would need to up my hours, but she did say that I could work at any time of the day or night, with their current tenant using 9-12 m-f mornings.
They told me they'd be willing to work with me, possibly let me do a six month lease instead of a year, and I could start out with a bare minimum number of hours on my lease (say eight hours a month), so I'd have minimal investment starting off. She said the lease agreement is 22 pages and written in their best interest and it takes them three weeks to draw up the lease. So, I've decided to take the leap. They'll be drawing up the lease, I've calculated costs for certifications, licenses, a chunk of rent to sustain me, insurance, legal council, etc. I'll need to give them a business plan as well.
So, it's still in the beginning stages, and much could still go wrong, but that's where I'm at right now.
Wow! You've been busy. I know how focused we can be when we have that goal to open a cake biz. At some point it will be a leap; not just a fantasy but a leap from fantasy into reality. Congrats on being brave and just doing it.
I will be signing a lease similar to yours in October when I rent a brand new commercial kitchen (new commercial appliances and stainless steel tables, etc.) It's exciting but we haven't worked out all the $$ yet. Right now my rental costs are almost nil thanks to a generous person my Dad knows but it's coming to an end soon.
I'd love to know how things go for you over time. Keep us updated and PM me if you ever want to chat. Good luck