Boston City Council mulls residential kitchen permitting

Andree Entezari just wanted to sell some lavashak.

That’s an Iranian fruit-leather treat made that Entezari compares to a more natural Fruit Rollup. When the now-Brighton resident lived in Los Angeles, he made it out of his kitchen, and sold it under the quippy name of “Lava Shack” — but he realized that kind of activity was in fact banned in Boston.

“I wanted to apply for such a permit — and then realized there was no process in place,” he told the Herald.

So he shopped around, talked to other activists, started an online petition and realized he’s not alone in wanting to sell some literally home-made food.

“A lot of people have tried to start this kind of business then ISD says they can’t do it,” Entezari said, referring to the city’s Inspectional Services Department.

He brought his plight to City Councilor Julia Mejia, who filed a hearing order about this last fall and then proposed an ordinance change last month. The proposal, which is up for a hearing Feb. 16, would create a licensing process for people to start up a “cottage food operation” in which they cook up food in their own kitchen to sell.

“When COVID came onto the scene, we saw it was dire to see how people could sustain themselves during these times,” Mejia said. “The idea is to reduce and remove barriers.”

Under the ordinance, which she introduced last month, people would be able to make specific foods as approved by the city’s Inspectional Services Division. Items like pies, jams, juices and other products that don’t need temperature controls to stay good would be allowed, with fish, poultry, dairy and others that go bad quickly not permitted. The ordinance also would require people to get ServSafe certified and would require them to have city health inspections done, and renters would have to get the approval of their landlords.

Mejia said 22 people had been fined by the city for selling food out of their kitchen without a license.

“It’s just a way to legitimize what’s already going on,” the councilor told the Herald. “When we do things in the light, everything’s clearer.”

She said she hasn’t run into much opposition at this point.

“I’m encouraged by the response that we’ve gotten,” she said.

Entezari said he plan on testifying at the hearing next week, and expects the ordinance change to pass.

“I’m stubborn, and I didn’t want to let up on this,” he said. “I’m proud of the fact that this will open up some doors for people. This is hopefully going to bring people closer to local food production.”

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