Not From the Onion, No Really, *Not* From the Onion

by on September 14, 2013 at 5:18 am in Food and Drink, Law | Permalink

CBS News uncovers a frightening new trend, unregulated dinner parties:

As you sit down to dinner, this story illustrates eating out like you have never experienced before. We are talking about super-secret, illegal dining experiences hosted in homes.

CBS 2 investigative reporter Tamara Leitner went undercover to see firsthand how this underground world works.

It may look like a dinner party, but it’s really an underground supper club.

The diners are a mix of New Yorkers and tourists. CBS 2’s undercover cameras captured one experience — eight people who didn’t know each other eating a meal in a stranger’s home.

Horrifying. CBS, however, missed an even bigger story. It’s one thing when adults subject themselves to danger but surely even libertarians with their heads stuck in the 19th century must recognize that it is something else again when the least powerful among us are subject to these same dangers without their consent. Intrepid economist Art Carden has the story of abuse and shame that has remained hidden for too long:

…children–children, mind you–are being fed food that’s prepared in unregulated, uninspected, and possibly less-than-sanitary conditions.

Bill Benzon September 14, 2013 at 6:53 am

Yeah, but the NSA knew about this months ago. They’ve got it covered.

WTF September 14, 2013 at 8:39 am

Alex is usually up in arms about all kinds of government overreach. And yet, I haven’t seen much from Alex about the NSA.

I’m just going to put this out there: The NSA makes requests for MR data and/or has backdoored MR with its hosts’ knowledge. If it’s true and MR hosts can’t say anything without risking criminal charges, I expect this comment to languish in silence.

I’m hoping, of course, that Alex can just reply back with, “Nope.”

Norman Pfyster September 14, 2013 at 8:55 am

He had a long post on how the 4th amendment is being undermined and that people should have the right to protect their data from snooping. I guess you missed it, but don’t let that stop the snark.

Jan September 14, 2013 at 9:05 am

I find the idea that NSA is trolling MR for info hilarious, but since you bring it up, I hope there is a response.

Alex Tabarrok September 14, 2013 at 9:20 am

this would explain the comment lag problem.

dan1111 September 14, 2013 at 10:38 am

This has got to be a joke, and yet it sounds so serious. So, instead of just reading the publicly available content on the website, is the NSA hacking into the website to read the same content, because it is more sneaky that way?

zbicyclist September 14, 2013 at 11:59 am

If you are a contractor for the NSA, you can likely get paid more if you hack into a site than if you just harvest public material in an automated manner.

For related, and more humorous material, see the current story line in “Dilbert”.

JohnC September 14, 2013 at 4:06 pm

“Alex is usually up in arms about all kinds of government overreach. And yet, I haven’t seen much from Alex about the NSA.”

I don’t know about Alex, but I bet Tyler will be when he learns that in an effort to stem the tide of underground restaurants, the Virginia Department of Health has partnered with the NSA to track his mad quest to find the seemingly innocuous decommissioned tourist center that churns out Michelin-star quality tortillas out of a storage shed.

(If you find it, the password is: “Not-in-Frommer’s.”)

Greg G September 14, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Absent from these stories seem to be any reports of people actually being prosecuted for this.

Is it possible that the real story here is that regulators have used some common sense and that the crackdown on these dinner parties is a non-existent problem?

dan1111 September 14, 2013 at 1:16 pm

The story is written with a sense of shock that this kind of activity is going on unregulated. I think that is what it being responded to–the assumption on the part of some that the government needs to regulate everything.

Also, yesterday the regulators probably didn’t know about these people. Now they do. We’ll see how the story develops.

prior_approval September 14, 2013 at 6:59 am

Wait, this is the part not from the Onion –

Leitner: “You guys are breaking the law by serving people meals and charging.”

Shafi: “Yeah. The reality is they are here and people really love them.”

So, an ‘unregulated’ dinner party is one where the host/ess charges for the food that is eaten. Out of the goodness of their guest inviting heart, compared to a heartless business, which just happens to use the same model of charging for the ‘guests’ for the food that is eaten.

Talk about outrageous.

dan1111 September 14, 2013 at 8:48 am

There is a difference between doing something informally on a small scale in your home and running a bricks-and-mortar business.

Should a garage sale be regulated the same as a store? Should someone babysitting be regulated like a day care center? What about a kid mowing a neighbor’s lawn or walking the dog or running a lemonade stand (we have all seen those news stories)?

This story highlights a lack of reasonable limits to regulation. Regulating this kind of small-scale activity accomplishes nothing other than interfering with people’s lives.

I can understand some regulation of restaurants, because being a public business creates a certain expectation that the business will adhere to some standards. But if I choose to go eat in someone’s private home, I have no expectation. I am fully aware of the risks. If I want to do that, and pay for the meal, why shouldn’t I be free to do so?

derek September 14, 2013 at 9:57 am

These folks have no prior approval for their activities. How dare they!

Mark Thorson September 14, 2013 at 10:03 am

I once got food poisoning from eating homemade food sold at a Chinese cultural gathering. I had several things that day, but I think it was the meat on a skewer that was the culprit. The seller had a big stack of them, so I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

I don’t find the laws regulating sales of food to the public to be any sort of tyranny. Here in California, it’s illegal to offer food to the public (even for free) that isn’t made in a controlled kitchen, and you can’t have a controlled kitchen in a residence. The food that gave me food poisoning was certainly illegal.

dan1111 September 14, 2013 at 11:37 am

Of course, plenty of people also get food poisoning at regulated restaurants. But let’s assume that unregulated food servers are higher risk, and you don’t want to take that risk.

If you feel that way, then why don’t you just choose to eat only at regulated establishments? If others feel differently, why not let them take that risk?

I also find “to the public” problematic, because this sort of regulation extends beyond the public sphere and into the private. If one of these dinner parties is publicized only by word of mouth and takes place in a private residence, is it really public? In NY state, if you rent a room for your invitation-only party, you can’t make your own food and serve it (for example, a wedding cake), even though it is clearly a private event.

Mark Thorson September 14, 2013 at 2:13 pm

That’s sort of like saying amateur mushroom pickers should be allowed to sell poisonous mushrooms at farmer’s markets, and if I don’t want to eat poisonous mushrooms I should learn to identify them myself or just not buy mushrooms at farmer’s markets. The problem with that logic is who wants to eat poisonous mushrooms? I think it’s fair to say everybody does not want to eat poisonous mushrooms. And it’s not much of a leap from there to say poisonous mushrooms should not be offered for sale, especially at a farmer’s market where there is an implication that they are for human consumption.

dan1111 September 14, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Note that people prepare meals in their homes every day, for themselves, friends and family. According to the logic of your analogy, this means that everyone is eating poisoned mushrooms for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all the time. Obviously all home-cooked meals should be banned!

rluser September 14, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Plenty of folks want to eat poisonous mushrooms. You can find the stories of some of them on erowid.

derek September 14, 2013 at 11:44 am

And people get sick eating regulated food. There was something a short while ago in Canada. listeria on prepared meats from operations that have a health officer from the government there all the time.

I’d suggest that instead of counting on some anonymous faceless entity to look after your interests that you do it. You learned what not to eat. I don’t eat some things even from regulated sites unless they have a stellar reputation.

About these dinners that are discussed, the problem isn’t that people are dying from food poisoning. What is the problem? There isn’t any except for the rent seeking class and the meddlesome class. Both have the ear of the scare monger class.

Tony September 14, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Partly true, I live in California and run a licensed catering business out of a commercial kitchen attached to my home. The key is that I must go outside to enter the kitchen via another door. Regulations prohibit a direct passage between the residential and commercial spaces.

Still, I cannot host dinner parties at my home as it would violate zoning regulations. The business runs as a “home occupation” which limits the number of visiting clients, among other things.

IMHO there is no good reason to allow people to run restaurants out of their homes. Lots of trouble for minimal benefit. If it were allowed it would quickly devolve from high end experimental chefs exercising their passion, to corner-cutting hacks out to maximize profits by ignoring food safety principles. Restaurants are scary enough as it is already, if anything I’d like to see tighter regulations than we’ve got now.

Tony September 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I also want to add that anyone who has not operated a commercial kitchen would probably be surprised at what a constant, uphill battle it is to maintain food and operational safety. It doesn’t come naturally, and it actually costs a LOT of money. Things like sloping floors with drains, air gaps, stainless steel surfaces, and so forth seem excessive until you’re actually in the thick of things, rushing to get everything done, or totally exhausted at the end of the day and can barely push a mop around. Maybe you spill a gallon of chicken stock on the floor at your busiest moment. Or you’re frying at a high temperature and have a sudden grease fire and have to activate the Ansell system – when you’re under pressure, these things can quickly escalate to catastrophe-level problems. It’s not until then that you realize that these expensive, government-mandated features are actually completely essential, just because of the sheer brutality of the work.

Getting my kitchen licensed was a huge, costly pain in the derriere, but in retrospect I’m actually grateful to have the government cracking the whip, because otherwise the pressures of this business would make it really hard to maintain safe conditions for either the guests or the employees. I’m a libertarian on a lot of fronts, but not this one.

The problem is that the demands of a competitive market inevitably lead food service workers to take unsustainable risks. With razor-thin profit margins and high failure rates, it’s like a game of chicken – how much can you get away with? Licensing of food service facilities actually takes this pressure off, by providing external accountability and removing the temptation to cut corners. I don’t think it’s necessary to be heavy-handed in cracking down on underground supper clubs, but at least being able to control their proliferation is essential to maintaining a viable market for safe and compliant restaurants.

Noah Yetter September 14, 2013 at 2:51 pm

How would ignoring food safety principles be the way to maximize profits? Customers that get food poisoning don’t tend to give much repeat business.

Jay September 14, 2013 at 5:46 pm

“How would ignoring food safety principles be the way to maximize profits? Customers that get food poisoning don’t tend to give much repeat business.”

That does explain the food in hospital cafeterias though!

albatross September 15, 2013 at 8:24 pm

You probably can’t actually tell where you got food poisoning from, absent someone chasing down the source with a lot of work and some lab tests.

prior_article September 14, 2013 at 10:08 am

‘There is a difference between doing something informally on a small scale in your home and running a bricks-and-mortar business.’

So let me end with a quote from this not an Onion article – ‘The price to get into one of these underground supper clubs ranges from $40 to several hundred. Some of the hosts say they are in it simply for the love of food, while others hope to turn a profit.’

Then let us combine it with another quote (without suggesting that this particular professional chef is serving 8 diners at 200 dollars a head, and if they are, it isn’t out of anything but a love of food) – “I want to do it as much as possible so my goal would be to do it two to three times a week, so kind of like a restaurant on the weekends,” Patlazhan said.

But if someone was charging 200 dollars for 8 diners three times a week, that almost 5000 dollar weekly gross becomes 20,000 dollars a month, or well over 200,000 dollars a year. And even if the profit is only 10%, and we exclude anything resembling tips – New Yorkers are welcome to comment how likely a second private invitation is likely to be for a non-tipper – that 20,000 dollar a year income, when combined with an actual salary working at an actual restaurant, does not sound that bad – especially being cash based and untaxed.

Just like a garage sale, at least if you squint hard enough.

‘Regulating this kind of small-scale activity accomplishes nothing other than interfering with people’s lives.’

A world where 200,000 dollar gross revenue per year is small scale activity sound fascinating. I wonder why so many children who babysit or mow lawns need to go into debt to pay for college in such cases.

Yancey Ward September 14, 2013 at 11:11 am

So, draw the line, PA, where the small scale stops being small scale.

prior_approval September 14, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Well, is the IRS definition for filing a tax return in 2012 good enough? – ‘Single, under 65 – $9,750 ( http://www.efile.com/tax/do-i-need-to-file-a-tax-return/ )

How about New York State’s definition? –

‘* You have to file a federal return.

* You didn’t have to file a federal return but your federal adjusted gross income plus New York additions was more than $4,000 ($3,000 if you are single1 and can be claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer’s federal return). http://www.tax.ny.gov/pit/file/residents.htm

Here is the definition for NY sales tax –

‘This bulletin explains when the sales of food and beverages (both alcoholic and nonalcoholic) made by restaurants, taverns, and other similar establishments are subject to sales tax. In this bulletin, the word restaurant includes:

* diners,
* cafeterias,
* drive-ins,
* pizzerias,
* taverns,
* delicatessens,
* food courts,
* street carts,
* concession stands, and
* any other establishment that sells “restaurant-type” food.’ http://www.tax.ny.gov/pubs_and_bulls/tg_bulletins/st/sales_by_restaurants.htm

Using the example of a professional chef serving 8 customers at 200 dollars a head just once a week, thus making comfortably over 6000 dollars gross a month? Not small scale.

Or let’s go downscale, using a food critic who only charges 40 dollars a head for 8 customers once a week, resulting in 1,200 dollars a month of revenue (not profit, of course). Nope, 14,400 dollars a year breaks the limit too.

I find it strange that no one seems to notice that each individual participant in these supper club events are dropping anywhere from 40 to 200 dollars, not including tips. Though maybe mowing your neighbor’s yard or babysitting as a teenager has gotten really expensive recently.

Thomas September 14, 2013 at 3:29 pm

PA,

Total gross income for an individual is a foolish way to determine whether supper clubs need regulation. If an individual earned $50,000 through their primary employment, and an additional $500 through an in-home supper club, they would have to file a tax return on the income. By your definition, this $500 supper club is “big enough”, but an idividual who earned only from an in-home supper club, but did not exceed the requirements to submit a tax return, would not be “big enough”.

In other words, “no”, it is not “good enough”. For what it’s worth, let me mention that your snarkyness only adds the ridiculous nature of your comment. Let’s imagine that a group of people decided to hire a chef to cook a dinner for them in a host’s home. The host posts the money to employ the chef, provides the kitchen, dining area, appliances, energy, and the raw ingredients. To break even on the investment the host not only charge cost/n participants, but must also charge for expected default/cancellations, lost time value of money, transaction cost, and liability. In other words, profit isn’t necessarily as you seem to be assuming. The host in this case would “earn income” even though any money “earned” is simply the result of their probabilistic bet against default/cancellation and liability. I cannot find any clear differentiation between a business subject to regulation and a individual’s home open for communal experiences with shared expenses.

Daniel Dostal September 16, 2013 at 7:09 pm

My family farm is worth roughly $1.5 million and operates on $200K a year. It is a family farm of 3 full time employees and up to 3 more for seasonal labor. Any number of new government regulations would have been the tipping point that we would have sold the farm. Thankfully none of them became law.

Fine dining is an expensive venture. Top quality ingredients come at top price. The difference between having this experience in a restaurant and at home means the owner/chef might actually make a real profit.

You want a world where $200K/year is small scale, let me suggest farming over dining.

commentariette September 14, 2013 at 7:43 am

Sound like a restaurant specializing in tasty food and tax avoidance. I wonder how many of the hipsters who eat there complain that the rich don’t pay their fair share…

commentariette September 14, 2013 at 7:47 am

Sounds like a restaurant that specializes in tasty food and tax avoidance. I wonder how many of the hipsters who eat there complain about the rich no paying their fair share.

Slocum September 14, 2013 at 8:16 am

Not so much tax avoidance as health-department regulation avoidance. Taxes are relatively trivial, but getting a home kitchen inspected and licensed to serve restaurant meals would be prohibitive (especially since these ‘underground supper clubs’ move around).

Chris S September 14, 2013 at 8:21 am

Next thing you know, this same type of person will put a small kitchen in a delivery van and drive it around the city, serving unwitting hungry people. It sounds silly, I know, but you watch.

Jan September 14, 2013 at 9:03 am

Yup, and they’ll pay taxes and be subject to regulations and have to buy liability insurance, just like any other business.

JWatts September 14, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Or maybe they won’t. I for one applaud these entrepreneurs sticking it to the state.

Jan September 14, 2013 at 4:14 pm

It’s the patriotic thing to do, right? Let’s not elect lawmakers who will advance reforms we support. No, let’s “stick it to the state”.

JWatts September 14, 2013 at 6:46 pm

It’s the patriotic thing to do, right?

Umm, no, sticking it to the state is rebellious, which is the opposite of patriotic.

jtf September 14, 2013 at 8:21 am

How is this at all different (except by quirks of legislation) from auctions where a professional chef agrees to cook a dinner in a person’s home? They’re quite common, and while a good portion of the fee is often donated to charity, the chef still gets paid.

Boonton September 14, 2013 at 9:00 am

Or for that matter simply paying a private cook to host a dinner party? It seems you could argue that a restaurant generally serves all comers during regular hours.whereas these dinners only happen when the host wants to have one.

prior_approval September 14, 2013 at 10:13 am

‘Or for that matter simply paying a private cook to host a dinner party?’

Charging mandatory admission would seem to be a clear distinction between what most consider a dinner party, and a supper club setting.

Kitty_T September 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm

My neighbor hosted a political fundraiser dinner party and charged admission – $X per head for a (professionally prepared) dinner, listen to a candidate bloviate.

The speechifying did as much damage to my digestion as my last bout of food poisoning, certainly. Maybe it should be regulated after all. Or I should just stick to the opera fund raisers.

Jim D September 14, 2013 at 9:09 am

Or any type of home chef arrangement for that matter?

prior_approval September 14, 2013 at 10:12 am

‘How is this at all different (except by quirks of legislation) from auctions where a professional chef agrees to cook a dinner in a person’s home?’

Probably because if guests arrive at my home for the cooked meal, I don’t charge them cost of the auction and food, minus my share?

And at least in the apparently normal world which most of us live in, the difference between an invitation and being charged cash for dinner is not just a quirk of legislation.

Boonton September 14, 2013 at 8:58 am

In the last ten years has a single ‘underground supper club’ been fined and shut down? It sounds like while it’s technically illegal,it’s informally not illegal since gov’t has no care to enforce the law unless someone starts to blue the line between group of people having dinner at someone’s house and someone turning their house into a restaurant. It sounds like the members themselves are hyping the illegality angle to add a thrill of breaking the law in a way that signals ultra-hip trendiness.

Sean P. September 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm

An underground supper club in Seattle was shut down a few years ago after being featured in an episode of No Reservations. However, I think it was the liquor control board that did them in.

derek September 14, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Just think how many lives were saved by this enforcement.

Careless September 14, 2013 at 7:51 pm

I believe Tyler linked to the bust of a Chicago underground charcuterie ring a couple of years ago.

Wow, apparently it was four years ago. Easy word to search the archives for.

Dan September 14, 2013 at 9:05 am

Government ought to require all kitchen appliances to be licenses. There is no constitutional protection for an individual to own an oven and even if there were Justice Roberts would OK the legislation because it would be just a tax.

Jan September 14, 2013 at 10:17 am

That assumes the democratically elected Congress thinks it wise to pass a law to levy a tax against people who don’t license their appliances. And if the Supreme Court would lose all credibility with more than half the country and the vast majority of legal scholars if it didn’t uphold the tax, then yeah Roberts would probably do that.

Careless September 14, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Yeah, I’m sure the majority of Americans would have considered the Supreme Court illegitimate had he gone the other way there. A whole 20% of them thought the mandate is Constitutional.

Boonton September 14, 2013 at 10:34 am

Instead of the usual libertarian carping about people being hurt by regulations that are never enforced, we could develop some actual economic theories about things like this.

Consider two regulations, both very expensive to comply with. One regulation is enforced 100% of the time, the other regulation adds a coin flip. If it’s heads the inspector/cop issues you the fines and tickets, if it is tails you get a pass. Clearly these are two different regimes. Let’s say the cost of complying with the regulation is $5000 and the fine is $8000. In the first regime, everyone would spend $5000 to comply since any violation would make them $8000 worse off. In the second regime, many people would not. The expected cost of not complying is only $4000 ($8000 * 50% probability of being fined). The regulation becomes more like a quirky type of tax in that case. Regulation could be relaxed either by dropping the regulation or lowering it’s rate of enforcement.

This is often done today informally. Technically you can get a speeding ticket for being 1 mph over the limit. In reality you’re not going to get any such ticket unless you do something to really annoy the cop. If tomorrow they announced they would replace all traffic cops with a network of cameras that would automatically issue tickets for all speeding, regardless of how far over the limit it is, people would get quite upset. That would be an increase in regulation since you’re taking a regime with maybe 5% enforcement and pushing it to something like 95%. Strictly speaking, though, the town could claim not a single law has been changed. All the speed limits are no less than what they were before the camera.

IMO this flexibility is useful for filling in the gap between stuff that should be totally unregulated (having a dinner party at your house) and stuff most people think should be regulated (turning you house into a total ‘underground’ restaurant. The dinner parties can continue without disruption but the motive to keep it on the down-low to avoid the Health Department keeps it from getting out of hand and becoming a disruption. Libertarians I suspect will not like this concept of ‘grey regulation’ being valueable as a protection from freedom but I think a world that has a share of ‘grey regulation’ is more free than a strict black and white one.

zbicyclist September 14, 2013 at 12:05 pm

“If tomorrow they announced they would replace all traffic cops with a network of cameras that would automatically issue tickets for all speeding, regardless of how far over the limit it is, people would get quite upset. That would be an increase in regulation since you’re taking a regime with maybe 5% enforcement and pushing it to something like 95%”.

Something similar is about to happen in the city of Chicago. Cameras are being placed in school zones to “increase safety” — and, of course, provide a rich source of revenue for the city without having to raise taxes. http://wgntv.com/news/stories/speed-cameras-installed-across-chicago/

Cyrus September 14, 2013 at 1:37 pm

How is knowing that a significant fraction of my daily activities are technically illegal, and I could be picked up at any time for annoying the powers that be, in any way freedom?

Skip Intro September 14, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Do a comparative analysis – spend a year under a truly repressive regime and report back. Or, you could stop doing illegal things.

Careless September 14, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Right, If not North Korea, then freedom.

It’s simple formal logic.

Jeffrey Deutsch September 20, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Excellent point, Boonton!

This is what’s known as “muddling through”. It recognizes the reality that there’s a significant grey zone in life…a reality I for one wasted many years fighting (as anyone who knew me at GMU can attest).

One of the more underappreciated books of the late 20th century, IMHO, is Thomas Sowell’s _Knowledge and Decisions_. In a nutshell, certain forms of knowledge don’t travel quite as well as others. When knowledge has to be filtered through things like (for example) a criminal justice system or regulatory enforcement body, against rules established in advance by (ditto) courts, administrators and/or legislatures, certain things will get lost in translation. The essential trade-off is better informed decision-making by people on the spot, versus reasonably fair enforcement of uniform standards.

As Edmund Burke pointed out, we can’t tell the exact minute at which day turns to night or vice versa…even though noon is indisputably day and midnight is, well, night. But where precisely do we draw the line?

The grey zone is the place for very subtle distinctions…which generally escape the notice of (and may not be credibly articulable to) faraway judges, juries or bureaucrats.

For example, a supper club may charge admission, but it’s more a matter of defraying costs among people too busy to make and bring their own dishes to pass. It may accept individuals not personally known to the host, but it’s not widely publicized and it’s more a matter of word of mouth spreading one or at most two levels (like third-level LinkedIn connections)…nobody tweets or Facebooks it because they don’t want to ruin a good thing. Those considerations may be very important to the people who support and pass the regulations in the first place, but they’re not easy to transmit (let alone prove) through processes designed to be neutral and objective.

So when the system works well, an honest inspector familiar with the situation can “look the other way,” and what the relevant people don’t know doesn’t hurt anyone.

And yes, the downside is that the decision to look the other way can instead rest on irrelevant or even problematic factors like personal preferences about the liberty/order tradeoffs here, personal affinity/hostility regarding the particular host and/or guests, national origin, race, religion…or even the willingness to extend financial or other favors. That’s the probabilistic price we pay for street-level discretion.

In America over the last few decades, many have found that price prohibitive. You might have heard of the resulting regime — zero tolerance. An absolute line is drawn. For example, an honor student with a squeaky-clean record who accidentally grabbed her mother’s lunch — complete with butter knife — in the morning and only notices when she arrives at school gets the same punishment (usually suspension) that a known gangbanger gets when caught with his favorite switchblade. The principal and everyone else at that particular school may know the relevant differences, but they don’t want to try to defend their distinctions before the district superintendent or school board…let alone in court.

Grey regulation, disorder or zero tolerance? Which is to say, given many Americans’ feelings, grey regulation or zero tolerance? Pick yer poison.

PS: A talk radio program is doing a show soon on restaurant regulation. If you’re an expert and would like to put your two cents in, please drop me a line and I’ll send you more information.

Bill September 14, 2013 at 10:37 am

Really poor people have been doing this for years.

It’s called

Sharining a

Dumpster.

zbicyclist September 14, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Actually, didn’t a lot of blues artists make much of their money playing at “rent parties”? You hire a local band, host a party in your apartment, and pass the hat in order to make enough money to pay the rent.

InDisguise September 14, 2013 at 10:50 am

Uhm… what? Unregulated dinner parties? Is there such thing as regulated dinner parties? Children eat food prepared in unregulated, uninspected, and possibly less-than-sanitary conditions every day: that’s called mom’s kitchen. In my family, a regular middle-class one in a big city dripping cultural heritage, I was the first person to introduce the concept of clean plates for each course. My parents — both engineers, father was involved in the development of pilotless spacecraft, mother wrote software long before computers became a household item — were puzzled: the foods will mix in your belly anyway, why on earth would you want a clean plate? A salad could sit in the fridge for a week and be deemed edible until eaten, because throwing food away is wrong. Toothpicks were left on the table and reused.

Nor is the trend new. Ghetto Gourmet (http://www.theghet.com/page/1157664:Page:19788) has been around since 2004. Secret social dining in Toronto was featured in The Star back in 2009 — http://www.thestar.com/life/2009/03/31/charlies_offers_good_deal_on_great_food.html — not because the secrecy was exotic, but because the food stood out compared to other numerous secret eateries.

So maybe tone down the drama a little, overall and especially with regard to children. Research (http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=182722) suggests there’s a 72% chance that your shopping cart at the supermarket is stained with feces, and half of the carts carry E.coli. Why? Because children touch them. Enjoy your meal.

Gene Callahan September 14, 2013 at 10:23 pm

“Unregulated dinner parties?”

That was Alex who wrote that. In fact, these are NOT “dinner parties.” People are running a restaurant in private homes.

It’s OK if you think that needn’t be regulated (I’d probably agree, although I’ve not given it much thought), but it is mendacious to claim these are “dinner parties.”

John September 15, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Actually Alex is quoting CBS which described the events as unregulated and illegal dinner parties.

Ted Craig September 14, 2013 at 11:01 am

I think this was the plot of a detective show I saw one time. The culprit was tracked down to an illegal restaurant that served banned exotic foods.

Nikki September 14, 2013 at 12:20 pm
Ted Craig September 14, 2013 at 5:11 pm

No, but that was a good movie. It was this:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0760375/

Yancey Ward September 14, 2013 at 11:18 am

Here is why this dinner party movement is so damned dangerous and must be squashed:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rk3bhyIaxSE

Careless September 14, 2013 at 8:01 pm
Charlie McDanger September 14, 2013 at 11:38 am

This thread is an underground irony kitchen and half the folks have never tasted anything like it.

Cuba September 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Nice to see paladars catching on among the imperialist scum.

ThomasH September 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I think Alex is making too much of this. Any effort to reduce the regulatory burden on business must draw a line at some point or points which will encourage substitution across the line.

Bill September 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I will make you a meal

At home

You

Will never forget,

Charles Mansion

Bill September 14, 2013 at 1:03 pm

They serve some really good liver and fave beans with a glass of Chianti

at

Hannibal Lectors House.

Schlurp, schlurp.

Bill September 14, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Just another example of something that won’t be enforced unless it goes large scale commercial or unless there are real risks, but in the meantime some will pretend the health department is going after it.

You can see examples everyday if you look for it.

Ever go to a large family picnic or a church potluck?

prior_approval September 14, 2013 at 2:23 pm

‘Ever go to a large family picnic or a church potluck?’

Many times – and I was never charged admission to either (unless the idea of bringing a dish to be shared is considered admission).

What would have been better was to ask about a bake sale – in that case, money is exchanged.

Bill September 14, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Never chipped in for the beer or wine at the picnic or family gathering?

But, if you paid someone to cater a wedding,, would you presume they were licensed (and that usually means they were trained in Hiaacp) before you ate the potato salad.

prior_approval September 15, 2013 at 1:12 am

Nope – unless bringing my own to share (as did the others) counts as ‘chipping in.’

But these were neighborhood family events, maybe only involving 30 or 40 people on a holiday like July 4th.

And thinking back to those days, there were the neighborhood pool grill parties – bring your own meat to grill, but pay for drinks. However, I’m pretty sure that NYC does not have much of a summer charcoal grill cooking culture.

Of course a lot of uncertainty can be generated when looking at what constitutes commerce when one decides to be very fine grained about definitions.

However, the factually anchored example of a professional chef grossing 200,000 dollars a year is not exactly one of those tricky cases.

mike September 14, 2013 at 3:20 pm

So you’re just fine with having wink-wink nudge-nudge laws that are enforced at the whim of the bureaucracy? Just FYI, this is why the War on Drugs continues on. If Suburban Mom knew that her little Johnny or his friend might actually get incarcerated for possessing marijuana, we’d get reform right quick. Instead, they’re comfortable knowing that “unless it goes large scale commercial” the laws as written won’t be applied to them.

albatross September 15, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Perhaps, but I’m still not too keen on putting little Johnny into the state pen for several years for pot smoking.

kombi servisi September 14, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I am fully aware of the risks.

Mike Up North September 14, 2013 at 5:16 pm

“CBS 2’s undercover cameras captured one experience — eight people who didn’t know each other eating a meal in a stranger’s home.”

Consenting adults freely engaging in commerce outside State-approved norms?

Slow news day.

Shane M September 14, 2013 at 5:19 pm

When I go to these I thought I was just paying for the company and the atmosphere. With an element of intrigue and danger.

Engineer Dad September 14, 2013 at 8:59 pm

– From The Simpsons, “Treehouse of Horror VI”
But altered for this situation.

Lisa: CBS News has created all these frightening new trends,, you
must know how to stop them.
Current chairman: Well sir, network news is a funny thing. If people stop paying
attention to it, pretty soon, it goes away.
Lisa: Like that old woman who couldn’t find the beef?
Current chairman: Exactly. If you stop paying attention to network news , they’ll
lose their powers.
Lisa: But people can’t help watching them. These trends are wrecking the nation.
[out the window, the network news wrecks the nation]
Man: You know, maybe a jingle would help.
[plays a piano arpeggio, sings] Don’t watch the news –
[plays another arpeggio] Don’t watch CBS News.
[chuckles] Well, it’ll sound a lot better coming out of Paul
Anka.

Dennis Van Essendelft September 15, 2013 at 1:34 am

Ah! And I thought my little town of Harwich on Cape Cod was uniquely backward.
Same thing:homeowner and chef, one seating, ten people, byob, suggested contribution incl. gratutity as payment. Acting on citizen complaint Health Agent shuts it down: septic system not certified for food estab. among other charges. Case closed.
Feel much better now re integrity of our town water! What a relief.
Another entrepreneur bites the dust. Another waitress loses a job.

Mondfledermaus September 15, 2013 at 10:21 am

I guess we can define this as “culinary prostitution”… you can invite a complete stranger to eat, is the charging that make is wrong…

JWatts September 15, 2013 at 11:06 am

+1

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