Having the Mayor visit us was a surreal experience. There’s so much energy around him– security, personal aides, communications folks– then Alderman, staff working on whatever he’s announcing, TV, press, the public– jockeying for attention. All this energy swirls around, and there’s the Mayor at the center of it– calm and charming. As personable as he is, you can’t help but have that "OMG-I’m-talking-to-THE-MAYOR-feeling."
It’s been over five months since Health Commissioner Bechara Couchair visited LSK and met with food business owners. What’s happened since that visit?
Our steady stream of health inspections has stopped. The "new" head of Food Protection that attended the meeting, Sandra Alfred, has already left her position, returning to a post in the Animal Care & Control Division. So the Head of Food Protection is once again a vacant post, as it had been for 1.5 years before Sandra Alfred briefly filled it.
I would describe our meeting Tuesday with Health Commissioner Choucair (SHOE-care) as constructive and loaded with potential. Over 30 members of the food business community made time to offer suggestions and begin what I hope will be ongoing diablog on how to work together in fine fashion. THANK YOU to everyone who came, I am continually inspired by the food community in Chicago.
Chicago’s new Shared Kitchen User Ordinance takes effect today. It’s written to regulate just two food facilities in Chicago, out of over 20,000. Our experience over the past two years is unfortunately remaining consistent, with a heavy hand and regulations that would be front page news if restaurants had to live with them:
LSK appearance in Administrative Hearings yesterday resulted in a finding of ‘not liable’– so no fine. Note the court does not find you ‘innocent’. There is no right or wrong in administrative hearings, only liable or not liable. It acts like a court, but when I requested the Judge order CDPH to issue a new, clean inspection report, her response was, "I can’t do that." Whaaaa? A court with no remedy?
LSK has been inspected 19 times in 2 years. Law requires two a year. We’ve been inspected five times more frequently. We’re off to court this Thursday, August 25th to contest a $500 ticket for a groundless violation that we view as retaliation for questioning a Health Dept. supervisor’s decisions. We are officially FED UP. Here’s a document that details our most recent experience. Want to help?
Friday, May 20th, the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce and Alderman Rey Colon signed an agreement concerning the operation and support of the 2011 Farmer’s Market. I helped secure this agreement as a neutral facilitator. I appreciate the opportunity to serve my neighborhood. As many people have asked what happened, and the details of the agreement, I’m sharing them here.
Yesterday morning, I was alone in the Logan Square Kitchen when I listened to a voice mail from my attorney. He was telling me that the Zoning Board of Appeals had unanimously ruled in our favor. After 14 months of persevering, we were no longer in danger of losing our business license. I sat down and cried.
Logan Square Kitchen had a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing last Friday. It’s been over a year of red tape, and Friday was a magnificent demonstration of what community can do. I was inspired and grateful to witness the hearing. About 40 people gave up their morning to sit behind us in support of the Kitchen, and we delivered over 275 letters of support. It made a huge impression on the Board members, as community members rarely attend, and if they do, it’s in opposition.
Yesterday we had our second meeting to provide feedback on a new licensing ordinance for shared kitchen users. I attended the City Hall meeting with Alexis and Tonya, owners of Kitchen Chicago and Splice Kitchen respectively. The ONLY reason we were at the table is due to Alderman Gene Schulter. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Ald. Shulter, THANK HIM.
The Chicago Reader is publishing a story this week. It relates Logan Square Kitchen’s terrible difficulties in the bureaucracy of City Hall over the past year. It was not an easy decision, to decide to speak to the press. For the past year, every attorney has advised me to keep quiet, for fear of retailiatory action by the City. So this time, I didn’t ask.
More great press for Chicago’s wonderful food scene. We’re so happy to see our good friends at Urban Belly and Floriole getting national press in Bon Appetit. This article has a pdf for easy downloading of this gem of a story on great cheap eats. It’s so fitting that I came across this article today, having had a
The Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival will take place July 23-25th– a Friday thru Sunday celebration. We’ve hosted some of the planning meetings of the art curators, and the energy and dedication is really terrific. The community along Milwaukee between California and Fullerton Avenues is really firing on all cylinders.
As I write, Chefs are upstairs prepping a dinner that celebrates the rabbit. This was what I dreamed would happen when we were designing and building LSK. It’s an extra restaurant for chefs to use– cook with their friends, have underground dinners, play with their food– you get the idea.
So LSK is calling all chefs. We’re offering Mondays and Tuesdays as Chefs’ Nights– come and use our facility for ten bucks a head. Kumbaya, as Rick Tramonto said in Time Out Chicago this week. This is the place for it.