When Flora Lazar—an IJ Clinic client who owns “Flora Confections”—and others applied for a license to run a food service business out of Kitchen Chicago, a rental kitchen, a city representative said he could not give more than one license to operate at one address. Unwilling to believe that the city would outlaw their meticulously run businesses simply because they shared a mailing address, the kitchen owners and renters proceeded to make their meals.
No sooner had they started than all the businesses renting from the kitchen got letters from the city ordering them to stop operating immediately. Flora contacted the city again seeking a license. She was told she could not get one. Speaking to a supervisor, she insisted that he accept her application. Finally, after Flora’s alderman called the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and insisted that they review her application, the city sent health inspectors to Kitchen Chicago.
The health inspectors did not ask Flora how she prepared the pureed fresh fruit she bought from local farms and stored in the Kitchen Chicago freezer. They did not ask her whether she operated after the cease-and-desist letter was issued—which she had not. They did not ask her about her impeccable knowledge of food safety or her culinary training. They instead opened her bags of fruit, dumped them in a trash can and poured bleach all over them. Amazingly, a Chicago Tribune reporter was there at the time planning to write a story about how open the city has been to new culinary ideas, and she caught this outrage on video. Flora got her license the day after the inspection. Nonetheless, after losing her irreplaceable fruit, she had to pay a fine of $500.
When government assumes the power to destroy new businesses, inspectors can be frightening, destructive bullies. Moreover, when the government codifies lots of rules describing what an acceptable business must look like, it stifles innovation. Complex laws written to govern a traditional business model—a restaurant with a single operator in a particular space—often outlaw future innovations as an unintended consequence. Government needs to give entrepreneurship space to grow and bear fruit, rather than poisoning it with senseless rules, red tape and bleach.
The incredulous video is below.
Consider me laissez-faire in my economic ideas, although I'm not all at opposed to sensible regulations. At the same time this is an idea a community commercial kitchen idea that should at least have a hearing. Unfortunately no one seemed very apt to let this establishment operate. At that destroying product without asking questions and for no documented reason. For all this woman had to go through to get a fair hearing, this craziness almost seems like a form of payback!