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Logan Square Kitchen 2.0 To Help Businesses Navigate Licensing

By Anthony Todd in Food on Apr 4, 2013 4:00PM

2011_8_23LSK.jpg "What I'm really trying to do is stay consistent to my original mission of advocating for and helping small food businesses," said former Logan Square Kitchen owner Zina Murray. While Logan Square Kitchen's physical space may be gone, Murray is taking the lessons she learned from the long process of negotiating with city authorities and using them to help other businesses grow.

Just to refresh your memory, Logan Square Kitchen was a shared kitchen, production space and event venue that hosted many small artisan food producers who weren't big enough to run their own facility. Unfortunately, after many months of struggling with a city bureaucracy that didn't quite know how to handle their shared kitchen business model Logan Square Kitchen closed to become the Chicago Diner's Logan Square location. By the end, LSK had been inspected 19 times in two years. Some thought the city had it in for Murray, who became one of the most public figures in the movement to reform the city's licensing and permitting system.

Now, Murray is back — at least in a consulting capacity. After LSK closed, Murray realized, "I have all this learning over the last five years about how to build sustainable buildings and the economics of shared facilities. How do I translate that experience into something that helps manifest the visions of others?" She believes that she is in a position to be "uniquely useful to a lot of people," and wants to help other innovative businesses and non-profits figure out how to stay afloat. "I took an incredibly difficult construction project, brought it to LEED Gold standards and got the bank to finance it in 2008 while the banks were melting down. What I want to do is spare my neighbors that experience."

Murray has already been working with a number of interesting clients. One business runs a food processing operation that employs disabled workers. "They know how to run a processing place with a disabled work force, but they don't know how to build the building," explained Murray. Churches who want to operate small production facilities have consulted with Murray for practice inspections. She can also help with food sanitation training, sustainable building techniques and many other aspects of small business ownership.

Some businesses don't want to go through the hassle of figuring out all the different rules and regulations; they want to focus on creating product. Murray says, "A good example is a small food business that finds a really great building for themselves, but knows it's a little too big of a risk to shoulder the real estate alone. So they get a couple of roommates. They are going to be a shared facility and need to comply with all the shared kitchen regulations. But they want to run the facility in such a way that they can focus on running their business."

If these sorts of businesses need help, Murray says she can bring all her expertise to the table to walk them through the process. The most important thing for small businesses, Murray emphasizes, is to know the law and the rules (or have someone like her who knows them). "If you know what the laws are, you are armed to be a much stronger advocate for yourself. So much of what happened with shared kitchens was illegal, but no one knew that! We thought regulators knew the law, but they don't always."

Murray's larger goal is to continue to work towards reforming food systems to make them more sustainable and easier to navigate. "I'm seeing amazing visions for food hubs in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio. It's inspiring to me to build facilities for sustainable food businesses. I'm never going to give up on that, and I'm excited and thrilled because I get to keep doing it."

To contact Murray, email her at