Jessica Brainsky has lived in Massachusetts for years. She always wanted to return to the Trumbull area, where she was born and raised. “My heart is here,” Brainsky said.
But her passion for baking kept her in Massachusetts. She runs a bakery from her home. Connecticut’s cottage food laws were too restrictive. “It was hard to understand the reasoning. You’re only allowed to earn $25,000 a year? It’s too suffocating,” she says.
Brainsky now plans to backtrack, as the General Assembly unanimously passed and the Governor signed a law doubling the amount of annual revenue allowed to cabin food licensees.
“Fifty thousand is still very difficult to live with, but it is certainly an improvement. This opens the door for more changes in the future,” she said.
Cottage Permitters — who make shelf-stable foods in their homes and sell them — have been operating in the state since 2018. Nearly 600 residents have permits. They can generate up to $25,000 in annual revenue; after $25,000 they must legally upgrade to a business license.
With the passage of SB187, introduced by Phil Young (D-Stratford) and Devin Carney (R-Lyme-Old Lyme-Old Saybrook-Westbrook), the cap is now $50,000. SB187 is effective October 1.
Permittees and cabin food advocates are happy to have made progress, but they say it’s just the beginning. “Hopefully going forward, we can expand that to eventually have no cap,” Young said.
That would bring it into line with Massachusetts, where cottage permits have no cap. “It would be better if the bill were pushed to a higher level so that people in this field could realistically earn a living,” Brainsky said during testimony before the Joint Committee on General Law.
Cottage licensees are the smallest of small businesses. Permissionees’ love of cooking goes hand in hand with a business model that suits them, earning a living using their own kitchen equipment in their home, where they can watch their children and set their own hours and have relatively low overhead. weak. Increasingly, incumbents want to maintain their cottage configurations without regulatory impediments to their sales opportunities or revenue.
Jennifer McDonald of the Institute for Justice, a Washington DC-based public interest law firm whose specialties include defending cottage permits, said: “Revenue caps on artisanal food businesses are increasingly more in the past.
“With the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and an ever-increasing cost of living, arbitrary income limits should not be placed on residents who are simply trying to support their families,” McDonald wrote. in his testimony to the committee. “Only 12 other states have a sales cap of $50,000 or less and 31 states have no sales cap at all.”
Due to the income cap, many permittees have other jobs to make ends meet.
Revenue caps are just one of the grievances cottage licensees have with state regulations. McDonald, Young and other advocates say they will return to the Legislature with other suggested amendments to make life and business easier for cottage licensees.
“These programs provide access and an avenue to entrepreneurship for people who may not have a ton of capital,” McDonald said.
Several cottage owners testified before the committee. Many of them, including Ashley Dione of Vernon, called on lawmakers to do even more. “The reform must go further. Specifically, the bill should be amended to eliminate the annual revenue cap entirely, allow Internet ordering and mail delivery in Connecticut, and prevent localities from banning the sale of artisan foods,” it read. in Dione’s testimony.
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Until last year, Norwalk and Waterbury were the only municipalities in the state that did not allow artisan food businesses. Both now allow craft businesses. “Cottage businesses in Waterbury are considered permitted home uses. This follows changes made to Connecticut’s general bylaws last year,” Waterbury city planner Robert Nerney said, referring to Public Law No. 21-29.
Current regulations prohibit the shipment of products made by cabin owners. Cabin food orders must be sold in person, usually by order, at farmers markets or other person-to-person interactions.
Aaron Perrott, who makes French macaroons in his Berlin home, under the name A La Mac, said this aspect of state regulation makes no sense.
“The reason is that they don’t want to risk anyone getting sick. I understand. But all the regulations for us to make these products is that they must not be potentially dangerous, that they do not require refrigeration. Not being allowed to ship something because you’re worried someone will get sick if it’s not refrigerated when we’re not able to do refrigerated stuff anyway? ” he said.
Perrott, who said A La Mac made around $10,000 last year, also has a full-time job in the restaurant industry. He said the $50,000 cap wouldn’t cause him to quit that job. What would inspire him would be a total removal of the cap and the ability to ship.
“Any business owner would say there is no reason for the state to limit my income. I pay taxes. So think about it. The more money I make, the more money the state makes he said, “Why else would anyone go into business for themselves? You don’t want anyone limiting your income.”
Susan Dunne can be contacted at [email protected].