The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong was originally published February 3 by Grand Junction Free Press.
“Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man. Bake me a cake just as fast as you can!” But if you’re a Colorado cottage baker: “They’ll stop you and they’ll fine you, and if you don’t pay, they’ll throw you in the pokey, that’s the bureaucrats’ way.”
Thankfully local State Representative Laura Bradford sponsored a bill (1027) to legalize cottage bakeries. By the time you read this, the fate of the bill may have already been decided, so see Ari’s web page FreeColorado.com for updates. (You an also find a video there of Ari performing the opening rhyme.)
We called Mande Gabelson of Ava Sweet Cakes to ask her why she supports the bill. (Ari released most of the interview early online.) She said that working out of a professional kitchen works great for large-scale caterers, but it isn’t cost effective for smaller operations.
Gabelson said that, under current law, you “can’t bake a cake and sell it to your neighbor.” If you’re running a bake sale and “the money goes to a school, that’s okay,” but bakers “can’t put the money in their back pocket.”
“I couldn’t even sell a cake to my mom,” she added; “That would be against the law.”
And why shouldn’t she be able to sell her gorgeous cakes? Gabelson said, “You have to think about the man hours that go into something like that. I’m an artist. The typical wedding cake takes between 15 and 20 hours, and I should be paid for my skills. People come to me because of my abilities, and they want to pay me… and I should be able to take that.”
We asked her how she settled on a name for her business. She replied, “That’s my daughter. When I was 7 months pregnant with her my husband got laid off from Halliburton.” She took baking classes, and “that’s when I discovered I have this talent. When Ava was six months old I decided to name it after her.”
We first learned of the “Cake Bill” from a Republican release, which summarizes: “House Bill 1027 allows cottage industry food producers to directly sell nonpotentially hazardous foods to consumers at off-premise sites—like farmers markets and roadside stands—without being commercially licensed.
“Under the bill’s guidelines, cottage food producers would still need to register with a county or district public health agency for a fee up to $100 and carry home baker liability insurance. Their products would also need to be labeled and include specific information, like the producer’s name, ingredients and a disclaimer.”
We agree with what Bradford said in the release: “This is a common sense bill. Freeing the cottage industry from regulatory burdens intended for large-scale producers helps them grow their businesses and helps their local economy.”
This bill isn’t perfect. People should be able to sell baked goods without registering with the county or paying fees. But on the whole this bill moves us closer to economic liberty and legal sanity.
We suspect that different groups might oppose the reform. Larger-scale bakers who want to forcibly limit their competition may try to keep the law in place. Frankly, we wouldn’t trust any baker who needs to use political force to wipe out the competition. Any baker worth his salt will have enough pride to bake goods that people want to buy voluntarily in a free market.
David K. Williams, Jr., a liberty lobbyist with the Gadsden Society, said, “I think the opposition is going to come from the baker industry that wants to minimize their competition. They want to keep the consumer from buying from somebody else. From a liberty position, if someone bakes a cake, and someone else wants to buy it from them, they should be able to. A regulation preventing that kind of option is harmful to the consumer and the economy.”
Some of the professional kitchens might oppose the reform, as the law would no longer compel small-scale bakers to use their facilities. Again, the law should protect people’s rights, not give some businesses an unfair advantage.
Finally, the Nanny State whiners hate liberty and want to shackle everyone with bureaucratic controls.
Gabelson offered the appropriate answer to them: “If you don’t want to eat cottage food, you don’t have to.”
Williams pointed out that consumers direct the market: “Obviously anybody selling bad cake isn’t going to be in business anymore.”
Today, far too many stupid laws impede entrepreneurs and give politically-connected businesses unfair advantages. Such laws squash economic progress and kill jobs.
The “cake bill” is a bit of welcomed yeast to help leaven the spirit of liberty here in Colorado.
Linn Armstrong is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son, Ari, edits FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.
Update: See also my February 2 note, as well as today’s article on the topic by the Independence Institute’s Krista Kafer.
Also check out my sweet video: