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OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state lawmakers are considering a bill that would create a pilot program allowing the permitting of microenterprise home kitchens.
HB1258 passed the House and is now in committee in the Senate. The bill was created by Representative Noel Frame.
During a public hearing on Tuesday, Frame said the bill has been years in the making.
(In support) Washington St House Bill 1258
Microenterprise home kitchen operations provide opportunities and supplemental income for people who are trying to break into the food business but face barriers to entry. The COVID-19 economic downturn has seen a lot of folks preparing and selling food trying to make ends meet. This is already happening, but it is unregulated. This bill puts a robust pilot program into practice to provide regulation, and after there is a
chance to see how the pilot program goes, it can be expanded. The bill provides an opportunity to help people get out of poverty, and can help lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and black, indigenous, people of color who may not have as much access to economic opportunity; this bill provides that opportunity. The goal is to make these operations legal. It would allow an opportunity to save money during the pandemic where people are struggling to feed their families. This would give people time to solidify their products. Food brings the community together and lets them share their identity and culture with customers. Passing this bill would let people feed their families and start businesses, but also foster community interaction and neighborly relations. Renting a commercial kitchen is expensive, and it is not always feasible to build your own commercial kitchen. There is a good economic benefit, but it also allows people the choice to have good home cooking, which is inherently more wholesome for people to eat. Folks such as senior citizens may not have the ability to cook good food, but may still want to be able to eat it. The bill would help establish jobs and start building new businesses. One part of the bill limits third-party delivery which does not take into account COVID-19 and the smaller proprietorships that would take advantage of the program. The bill could also help those incarcerated to have a job when released from prison. Entrepreneurship helps people. (Opposed) None.
(Other) There is no disagreement that there are barriers to becoming business owners. One challenge is cost and availability of commissary kitchens. An established restaurant with a permitted kitchen could not rent the kitchen during nonworking hours, but is now allowed to do so due to emergency rules. The concern with the bill is that it exempts food services from important food safety regulations for public health that should be implemented equitably across the industry. Instead of creating a new permit with different requirements, barriers to existing programs should be addressed. Some specific recommendations for the bill are the need for an end date and a report on the pilot project. There needs to be some sort of management or food protection manager requirement with changing the food codes. Persons Testifying: (In support) Representative Frame, prime sponsor; Laurel Hargis; Luis Diaz, El Jibarito; Will von Geldern and Beto Yarce, Ventures; Prashanthi Reddy, Makeda and Mingus; and Aaron McCloud, Cheeki. (Opposed) Samantha Louderback, Washington Hospitality Association; and Carolyn Logue, Washington Food Industry Association. Persons Signed In To Testify But Not Testifying: None