Reporting a Business That Doesn't Have a Permit

Someone in my neighborhood is running a home based catering business without any permit and are cooking in their garage. Is that legal? Who do I need to inform?

By Joseph from CA

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February 22, 20100 found this helpful

You'd have to call the local zoning office. Laws vary greatly from city to county to state.

Some places require a commercial kitchen for catering, some don't. Some don't require a business license if clients don't come on site and...I could go on.

A lot of places don't really even have laws if the business doesn't interupt regular neighborhood (reasonable) activities...some police departments deal with zoning issues, some don't.

Call or email one of your local government offices like city council or your county commissioners.

Personally, if they aren't disrupting the neighborhood, I wouldn't even bother. Neighborhood feuds can get very ugly. Loud parties, obvious drug activity - that's a cause for concern. A basic home-based business in this economy...eh, I'd just leave it be.

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February 22, 20100 found this helpful

I was reading about this sort of thing not long ago (selling food). I feel like the health department has something to do with it. The kitchens are supposed to be meticulous. I suspect that there is some sort of license/permit required, and probably insurance (what if someone consumed the food, had a reaction and sued?).

Here is a link to a discussion about selling food on etsy. It might not be the exact same situation (selling online vs. catering locally), but it's similar. Maybe you'll get some good information. http://www.etsy.com/forums_thread.php?thread_id=6320688&page=1

As COflower pointed out, reporting someone in your neighborhood might cause conflict (or more conflict?). You have to weigh what feels "right" to you. Some people feel they should mind their own business, others feel like they have to do the right thing. Whatever you choose, I hope it works well for you. And, if they're cooking in their garage (yuck!), you know who NOT to call the next time you need a caterer! :-)

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February 22, 20100 found this helpful

Well, you can have a home based business involving cooking, but rules are very stringent. I thought of it once, but involves a lot of detail, so gave up idea.

Frankly a garage does not sound sanitary unless it were remodeled completely into a modern, stainless steel kitchen, which would be so expensive one would be better off renting a kitchen space, as in a church.

Depends on your town as person above says. The greatest problem would be fire hazard.

Just to be safe, are you sure what they are cooking is food? Did they say they were, or have you seen the food? They might be cooking meth.

I'd turn them in to health department /police. I was in the food industry for many years, and I see no way an ordinary person could keep food clean in a garage.

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Anonymous Flag
February 25, 20100 found this helpful

Health department and they will investigate immediately!

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February 26, 20100 found this helpful

I agree with Coflower above. Is it hurting you? Maybe they are out of work and trying to find a way to make ends meet. We have so much government regulation in our lives as it is. As long as it's not hurting you directly why not just stay out of it.

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February 26, 20100 found this helpful

This has to be about the most mean spirited thing I have heard in a long time. Is what this person doing causing you any harm? Why should you care & most of all why would you want to cause problems for someone that could just be doing this to get through some tough economical times, as most of us are. If you have this much time on your hands that all you can do is stew about what this person is doing then why don't you wander on down & offer a helping hand rather than a kick in the pants!

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February 26, 20100 found this helpful

Candygirl: Your low number says you are new to this. I can tell you exactly why someone needs to make sure they are clean, sanitary, and legal. It's called food poisoning!

They don't call the taco stands and lunch wagons' "roach coach" for nothing you know!

What if they are dog lovers? Would you want something like that in your catered affair? If it were you ordering food from these people, and go ahead, have them cater your next party...to find they were using the bathroom and not washing their hands, or not wearing a hair net, or had old chicken slop on the counters where they sat that cupcake you just ate!!

The reality is they might be legal and have all sorts of permits. Or, they might be making doggie treats or mixing seasoned mixes where you don't always need to get permits.

I, and I think we all agree here, am all for doing what it takes to make ends meet...as long as it is safe and legal! Doing something that can make someone sick or even kill them is not worth it. But, don't do anything. Let someone who cares take care of the phone call.

Doing it right since 1954! Poor But Proud...and legal!

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February 26, 20100 found this helpful

Amen, PoorButProud!

And to add to what you said for the other's who mentioned it's no one's business, "It is everyone's business and it is everyone's responsibility to report such conduct for health reasons because even a stranger to you might become deathly ill"! I for one certainly wouldn't want to hear a report that someone died from food poisoning because of this place simply because I didn't open my mouth and say something!

Also, when complaints are made to any agency you can request to remain anonymous and the neighbors cooking food in a garage would never even know!

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February 26, 20100 found this helpful

If you are so bold as to stick your nose in another's business without really knowing what they are doing, then why would you want to remain anonymous? In my opinion, if you are doing the right thing and are proud of it, you would want others to know that it was you. But when you do something sneaky that you are ashamed of, that's when you choose to remain anonymous.

Personally, I wouldn't jump to any conclusions. I'd first go to my neighbors and actually talk to them about what they are doing. They may be cooking food for their family reunion, and the rest of the family knows exactly how they are doing it. It may not be the way I choose to get my food, but people can live by any standards they wish. Also, it is not illegal if they choose to cook for friends, no matter where they do it. If the friend pays them for the ingredients, it remains a personal agreement, like going to a friend's house for a BBQ (you know, cooking outside rather than in a garage). The law has many loopholes, and you'd better know what you are talking about before causing a commotion or you might be the recipient of a lawsuit yourself.

When I was younger, my best friend's grandmother made Easter candy at home; she was not licensed to do so. The same people bought from her year after year, knowing how she made it in her kitchen, and understanding that it was not health regulated. Whether you like it or not, it really is none of your business.

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February 27, 20100 found this helpful

County Health Department

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February 28, 20100 found this helpful

I'd say let it go unless it's affecting your quality of living. How do you think Paula Deen got started??? It's hard making ends meet these days. When my kids were little I kept 3 kids in addition to my own; 5 total (none were infants). All were preschool except one who I only kept after school. Someone reported me in for keeping kids without a license. I suspect the person who reported me was a neighbor hairdresser whose child I was keeping on occasion for free. I asked her to cut my hair in exchange for keeping her child and she refused.

The kids were well taken care of and they were not watching TV all day. We had reading time every day before naps. They were well fed and my environment was safe. Even had cots for them to nap on. My kids loved having the playmates. The little extra money allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom. My kids AND the kids I kept benefited and the parents were able to work without expensive day care. If you have a grudge with your neighbor please try to work it out in a way beneficial to you both.

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February 28, 20100 found this helpful

I know that in some states, you can cook outside or at least not in a kitchen and by pass needing a license and health inspection. I am familiar with a resturant that cooked hamburgers outside on a grill and thus by passed health inspection. I have bought food from home vendors. I think as a buyer you need to realize the risks and decide if it is for you. i have never gotten sick from home vendors, but it is a risk you take.

I would hesitate long and hard before I turned in a neighbor. Believe me, they will figure out who turned them in!

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March 1, 20100 found this helpful

Do you know these neighbors well enough to just come out and ask them what exactly they are doing? How do you know they are for sure doing catering? I don't think you should casue any trouble for your neighbor if perhaps they are making food for extended family or friends. It may be an arrangement with people they know that they make food and get paid but yet it's not really a business. Better to find out the facts first before you turn them in and then there's hard feelings.

I have had food poisoning myself and it's not fun but I got it from an evening appetizer spread at a hotel!

Even if something illegal is going on at the neighbors, might be best to find out more first. If it's really bothering you, you could let the town know but these people may end up finding out you told on them, so be prepared for that. Actually I do think it would be the right thing to let someone know if they are catering w/o a license and cooking the food in a garage.

Good luck, whatever you decide to do.

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Anonymous Flag
March 1, 20100 found this helpful

With much respect, TXBetty, you really don't know if Paula Deen had permits or not to do this from her own kitchen, that has running water, and not a garage :-( Plus, her success came from working for someone else for five years and then opening her own restaurant and not from sales of food from her kitchen.

http://gourmetfood.about.com/od/chefbiographie1/p/pauladeenbio.htm

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