Serious Eats: Chicago

Logan Square Kitchen Closing in June

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[Courtesy of Logan Square Kitchen/Facebook]

Logan Square Kitchen, a shared cooking and event space in the northwest neighborhood of the same name, will close on June 28th. For most, this sad news is about all you need to know. But if you have been following the story at all, you know about the embittered history that owner, Zina Murray, has had dealing with the city. Since it opened in 2009, Logan Square Kitchen has been inspected 20 times, resulting in numerous expenses. During the process she's been vocal in her opposition to the many city departments that have hampered her business. And if you thought she'd go quietly, you were mistaken.

In an email blast sent out this afternoon, she once again attacked the city, claiming that nothing has improved and sees no reason that things would get better anytime soon. No matter what you think of the issue, it's a good read.

Check out the full message below:

A statement from Zina Murray, owner of Logan Square Kitchen

LSK is a shared commercial kitchen that small food businesses rent by the hour. Currently, about 20 active businesses use LSK as their production facility. All of them will need to find new kitchens in order to keep their businesses open. All clients will be able to continue to produce until June 28, 2012. We'll be working to support our clients during this transition, and welcome any information about available Kitchens.

It's a sad time when our government kills the very things that can heal our City. Logan Square Kitchen was designed to heal the local economy, environment and food system all at once. It was an innovative, bold idea that never had its chance. The Dept of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) began hammering nails in its coffin before we even opened our doors in 2009 and hasn't stopped. Unfortunately, we see no end to regulatory burdens, which will continue to block our ability to grow a healthy business.

Over and over we heard, "you did everything right." See the Alderman before building purchase. All City Depts approve us through Green Building Permit Program. Go to BACP in advance of applying for license, completely disclosing the business model. Spend 3 months talking about what licenses we needed. Apply as directed. Told we 'misrepresented' our business. Told we can't have license caused we've failed our "furniture inspection." Correct that, and get licenses contingent on conditions we can't meet. Then the Zoning folks try to shut us down. 20 health inspections. 18 months wrapped in red tape. Enduring intimidation and harassment, the resources we set aside to ramp up the business were instead used to pay lawyers and our mortgage while we were denied the right to operate.

While our licensing difficulties are over, they are just beginning for our clients. Before the "helpful" Shared Kitchen Ordinance that took effect Sept 1, 2011, we got clients licensed in a week or two. Now it takes 1-3 months and multiple trips to City Hall. Unfortunately, Mayor Emmanuel's new 'streamlining' of business license ordinance that passed last week does not offer any streamlining for shared kitchens.

It should come as no surprise that we must close. LSK is collateral damage from choices that City employees make each day--people that have lost the ability to connect their actions with the consequences they cause. In all the many, many meetings I've had in City Hall in the past three years, there's a question no one ever asks. "Is it good for our City?"

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