The City of Brotherly Love is not showing much to its small business community. At least that is the reputation that Philadelphia is gaining due to stories just like this one. On August 25, it was reported that Philly inspectors seized the truck belonging to a city favorite: The Cupcake Lady. According to city officials, the Cupcake Lady did not have the proper permit to be running her roving business in the University City neighborhood where she was currently parked.
The Cupcake Lady, also known as Kate Carrara, says she has tried quite hard to always apply for the proper business permit for any area she stops her tuck or to stay outside prohibited zones, according to a report by the Associated Press. Carrara says, "I've been trying to figure out where I can go and where I can't go." But the laws are just too confusing for her to figure out. Here is the punch line: before she sold cupcakes, Carrara was a lawyer.
On Tuesday, August 23, Carrara pulled up in the cupcake truck to University City only to find city officials with badges waiting for her. She thought she was just outside the zone where a business permit was required, but the inspectors told her they had received complaints and that she wasn't allowed to operate there. They went through her cake truck and promptly seized it.
The cupcake seizure is a product of the permitting process in Philadelphia which local business owners say is antiquated, confusing and can be over-inclusive. For example, the AP cites Philly's "wage tax," much despised by local businesses and employers because it applies to everyone who works in Philadelphia -- whether they live in the city or not.
Over taxation on small businesses as been an issue for Philadelphians in the past. Most recently, as discussed in a prior post, bloggers working within the city have been hit with a tax, whether they earn any substantial revenue from ads placed on their sites or not.
All small businesses selling food must get city, as well as often state and even federal, permits and licenses. These can include business licenses, health department permits and sales tax licenses. The Cupcake Lady needed vending licenses for the various zones around the city. According to the AP, Carrara now advocates a special permit for roving businesses. Like for example, in the city of Portland, Oregon, known for its outstanding food trucks. That city has a simple one page permit application.
When the Cupcake Lady resumes sales, look for local favorites such as cupcakes made with beer, Bailey's Irish cream and plantains as well as the perennial favorite, Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting.