Home cooks could be on hook for $300-plus in Los Banos city fees

By Corey Pride / Cpride@losbanosenterprise.comApril 1, 2013 

People in Los Banos making non-refrigerated foods for sale in their home may have to fork over more than $300 in fees.

On Wednesday, the Planning Commission recommended an ordinance to the City Council that will require cottage food operators to acquire a $78 business license and a use permit that may cost as much as $250. That means certain food business people could pay $328 to remain on the right side of local law.

The California Homemade Food Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, mandates that cities set up regulations to allow cottage food operations.

Cottage food operations are permitted to produce baked goods without cream, custard or meat fillings, such as breads, biscuits, churros, cookies, pastries, tortillas, brittle, toffee, fruit empanadas, fruit tamales, jams, jellies and other such foodstuffs.

Community Development Director Paula Fitzgerald said under the proposed ordinance, the regulations for cottage food operators would be similar to the rules for street vendors, including a requirement for a $1 milliion liability insurance policy. Fitzgerald said the proposed ordinance does not yet include a stated price for the use permit but it will likely be the same $250 price tag that is listed for vendors.

California allows cottage food operators to sell on the streets or from their homes.

Commissioners debated whether to include specific hours of operation inside the home in the ordinance.

"If we don't have hours of operation, there won't be a way for anyone to have an understanding of what the expectations are. I'm not in favor of limiting anybody's business opportunities, but if someone is doing business next door to me -- I live there. That's my home," Commissioner Tracey Rosin said.

Commission Chairwoman Chandra Lee said because the city does not know when businesses will need to operate, it may be better to leave it to the discretion of city staff.

Commissioner Tom Spada suggested 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for delivery trucks and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for customers visiting homes of cottage food operators.

He said not setting hours could cause problems.

"I'd hate to have something happen and people in the neighborhood come to us and say, 'You approved this,' " Commissioner Tom Spada said.

The Planning Commission settled on allowing city staff to set hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Fitzgerald said if a cottage food operator needs to have different hours, that person would have to get approval from the commissioners.

Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 388-6563 or by email at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com.

Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 388-6563 or by email at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com.

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