"I found out that I couldn't work legally out of my apartment, and I had to apply for all sorts of licenses and pass a test given by the Health Department," explains Marian Fletcher, 55, whose Baltimore-based party-planning and catering service recently celebrated its second anniversary.
"Although local zoning restrictions didn't prohibit me from running my business out of my apartment, required Health Department modifications made it virtually impossible," says Fletcher, referring to the renovations officials required that she make to her kitchen area if she wanted to work from home. "Health Department inspectors said I had to have certain things installed in my apartment, such as double sinks, and they complained that my overall kitchen capacity was too small. It didn't take me long to realize that I needed to set things up in a different way."
As a result of these requirements, Fletcher ended up renting space in a commercial cooking facility, located 10 minutes by car from her apartment. The facility was already fully licensed and approved, and it contained all the equipment she needed. However, before she could start whipping up edible creations for her clients, Fletcher needed to fulfill additional Health Department demands. "I had to provide proof that I'd taken classes to learn about food preparation, and I had to pass the Health Department's test covering cleanliness standards, food-preparation guidelines, and the like. I received a certificate from the Health Department after fulfilling all of their requirements."
In addition to Health Department requirements, Fletcher had to apply for numerous licenses. "I needed everything from a trader's license--which allows me to offer my services at seminars and other group settings--to sales tax and resale tax licenses," she says. "I also had to file a DBA (doing business as) application with the Baltimore Department of Licensing to secure my business name."