The Answers Issue: Why is the license to make ice cream in D.C. prohibitively expensive?

Why is the license to make ice cream in D.C. prohibitively expensive?

We’re stumped—and so are the agencies that regulate ice cream in D.C. Businesses that manufacture ice cream, frozen yogurt, frozen ices, sherbets, frozen tofu, or other frozen desserts have to obtain a specific license from the District’s Department of Consumer Regulatory Affairs, and it’s far more expensive than any other license for food purveyors. Making ice cream requires a $2,730 license and additional fees. By comparison, a bakery license costs $375, a marine food product license costs $289, and a license for a restaurant with 100 or more seats is $785. Of the dozen available licenses, the second most expensive is a “commission merchant license” for retailers selling prepackaged foods, which costs $1,560.

So why is it so pricey to break into the ice cream biz? No one seems to know. DCRA set the licensing fees several years ago; spokesman Helder Gil says he asked around and found no one who could explain it. The money, he says, goes to the D.C. Department of Health to pay for health inspectors. So maybe Department of Health food safety manager Robert Sudler knows why? “I’m not sure why [DCRA] charges so much, because it’s an astronomical amount,” he says. “They probably can give you a better answer than me.”

Our Readers Say

Small business provides local jobs, can be someone's first job experience, can be an oasis in a neighborhood down on its luck. So who is going to step up and fix it so small business can thrive in this city instead of just shrugging their shoulders? We can do better.
This is an issue that needs to get more attention. As a freelance contractor, I had to pay $400 to obtain a business license to be "legit" in D.C. If I lived in Virginia, that fee would be significantly reduced, most municipalities charge around $75 to $100. Why is it so expensive? Does D.C. want to prohibit people starting new businesses? You think they would want people to be "legit" so that more income would be reported and taxed.

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