Should the Underground Market Move to a Bigger Venue?

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Small and packed or trade-show sprawling?
​Should the SF Underground Market go huge? The monthly phenomenon that's drawn thousands of locals interested in scoring artisan edibles from small, home-based vendors is suffering from growing pains. Last week, organizer Iso Rabins posted a longish query on his blog, asking supporters if they'd prefer he move the event to a space larger than its current 5,000-square-foot home at SomArts Cultural Center on Brannan.

Rabins: The running joke seems to be that we should move it to the Cow Palace. Its definitely something we think about not the Cow Palace ― when I see the hour and half wait to get in, get angry emails from customers (actually just got my first one a couple days ago), and patiently explain to vendors for the 20th time that in fact we can't let anyone else in at the moment, lest we all die fiery deaths as martyrs for the local food movement (translation: we've reached fire code capacity).

The question is financial as much as it is about crowd control.

Rabins charges some 40-plus vendors $50 per market stall, and at this month's event, he charged attendees $2 admission (all previous markets ― the first was in December 2009 ― were free). Rabins says he already pays thousands of dollars to rent SomArts. To upgrade in size, he'd have to pay $10,000 for the venue alone, meaning vendors would be required to cough up $100-$300 per stall. The next Underground Market is July 24 at SomArts.

Clearly, Rabins prefers to keep the event the size that it is, even if it means long lines to get in. "The market feels more like a big party, rather than a vast trade show," he writes. Have an opinion? What's your preference: risking being pissed off about the line out front, or navigating a bigger market in a humongous space? Let us know in the comments section.

Follow us on Twitter: @SFoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com
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