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Alameda County Takes A Step Towards Allowing Home Kitchen Businesses

Cooking noodles at home.

In 2018, the State passed a law allowing residents to prepare and sell meals from their homes. Each County had to opt in and create a system for home kitchen permitting before selling home-cooked meals could become legal. So far, only a few counties have opted in.

Nonetheless, tens of thousands of Californians already sell meals prepared at home. Here in the Bay Area, it’s legal in Solano County, but in Alameda County, it’s technically not. At least not yet.

An ordinance to change that is currently before the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. If it becomes law, home-cooks in Alameda will be able to sell their meals above board. Once permitted, they’ll be limited in a few ways. They can only sell up to 30 meals a day and 60 meals per week and cannot make more than $50,000 dollars a year. They also cannot have more than one full-time employee.

In order to get a permit, home-chefs will need to pay a $696 dollar fee each year. This is a lot less than the cost of opening a formal restaurant. Isaac O’Leary works for Foodnome, which is an online marketplace for home cooked meals. He supported the ordinance at the board meeting on Tuesday and says allowing people to sell meals cooked at home is an economic justice issue.

According to O'Leary, "It costs about a quarter of a million dollars to start a restaurant in the state of California, on average. This has effectively excluded low income folks, really anyone who can't access a quarter of a million dollars worth of capital, from owning a food business."

The proposed ordinance received unanimous support from the county supervisors in a first review at Tuesday's board meeting. If they pass the new law, the County plans to start offering permits to home chefs in early July.

Annelise was born and raised in the East Bay and has a background in oral history and urban studies. For the last four and half years, she's worked as a criminal defense investigator at a public defenders office in the Bronx, New York and at an appellate defenders office in the Bay Area. As an investigator, she frequently interviews people involved in different parts of the criminal punishment system. Through her work, she has become passionate about the power of personal narratives and compelling stories to increase cross-cultural understanding and initate change.