SOMERVILLE, N.J.—Last week, officials in Somerville, New Jersey, voted to change the borough’s regulations on home baking, making it easier for individuals to sell homemade baked goods. The changes come following a letter from the Institute for Justice (IJ), on behalf of a home baker, calling on the borough to change its regulations.
“I’m so happy that I can finally take my passion for baking homemade sweets and turn it into a livelihood,” said home baker Maria Winter. “I never wanted to build a massive commercial kitchen or anything like that. I simply wanted to share my homemade baked treats with interested customers, and now I can finally do that.”
Prior to passage of the new ordinance, Somerville required would-be bakers to comply with the following restrictions:
- Pay a $1,000 application fee;
- Pay a $4,000 escrow deposit to the city;
- Publish a notice in the Courier News announcing that the person is applying for a home business; and
- Notify all neighbors within 200 feet of the property that there will be a public hearing about the application.
“Somerville’s old regulations were way out of step with the reforms that the state of New Jersey made last year. The old regulations served no purpose other than preventing hard-working people like Maria from earning an honest living,” said IJ Attorney Rob Peccola, who sent the original letter. “We’re happy that Somerville has decided to change these prohibitive regulations.”
Earlier this year, after hearing that New Jersey had changed its regulations to allow home baking, Maria reached out to Somerville officials for permission to open her business and paid the $25 required for a home business permit. Unfortunately, in May, Somerville officials denied her application.
In late 2021, New Jersey became the final state to allow individuals to sell homemade baked goods for a living. Those changes came after years of litigation by IJ challenging New Jersey’s ban.
IJ has challenged similar cottage food laws throughout the country, including successfully ending Wisconsin’s ban on selling home-baked goods and Minnesota’s restrictions on the right to sell home-baked and home-canned goods. IJ has also fought against restrictions on other at-home businesses, such as the ordinance in Lakeway, Texas, that is threatening to put an at-home day care provider out of business because of complaints from a former mayor that he can see toys in her yard from the local golf course.
As we enter a post-pandemic world, the ability to earn a living from home is more important than ever. Local government must not stand in the way of citizens trying to earn an honest living. A new report from IJ shows the importance of at-home businesses.