CHICAGO (CBS) — Tanya White sat in class at the Hatchery Wednesday evening with the Chicago license she needs to use the shared kitchen at the West Side Food Incubator now in her possession after CBS 2 helped her cut through reams of city hall red tape.
Now self-employed caterer Andrea Alexander says that same red tape has her dreams all tied up.
“I have a gourmet line of cheesecakes,” she said. “The last step is the city.”
Alexander applied and paid for a shared user kitchen license with the city this summer. Her plans are to use the Hatchery’s kitchens to make her “Just Like U Like It” treats.
“I have been approved for the Hatchery,” she said. “But unfortunately the wonderful City of Chicago states that I owe them tickets from 2004 totaling almost $2,000.”
The city said she had to pay up or she would not get the license.
“I know I paid those tickets in 2004,” she said. “I have no proof.”
She said she is stuck unless she goes on a payment plan.
“I can’t work out of the Hatchery. I cannot do business in the City of Chicago without a business license,” she said.
That income stream is gone. But Alexander and White wonder how the city can give $7 million in taxpayer money and $1.75 million in tax credits to the Hatchery, then throw up licensing roadblocks when community members try to start businesses.
“We certainly want to eliminate as many barriers as possible,” said the nonprofit’s CEO Natalie Shmulik.
That includes offering West Side residents discounts and free memberships. Shmulik said she is now looking into Alexander’s case to try to help, but the city isn’t saying much.
“There’s an obstacle there,” Alexander said. “A big road block.”
Alexander acknowledges her lack of payment proof is a problem but says she doesn’t have any receipts from 15 years ago.
The spokesperson for the business affairs and consumer protection department said when it comes to applicants with unresolved debt, the city will work to offer pathways to compliance but would not say if the includes issuing a license while payment is being worked out.