Underground Market Remains Closed; ForageSF to Make Case to City Attorney

The underground market
Health inspectors are holding the line on their decision to shut down the popular ForageSF underground food market, insisting in a meeting yesterday with ForageSF founder Iso Rabins that vendors obtain necessary licenses before the market can reopen.

Rabins tells SF Weekly that the meeting with officials from the San Francisco Department of Public Health "didn't go great. Basically what they're saying is that for them to be able to okay the event, I need to bring all the vendors up to code."

On Saturday, inspectors shut down the market. They had previously permitted it -- even though its vendors don't prepare their products in commercial kitchens, as is required by food regulations -- on the rationale that it was a private, "members-only" event. Patrons were able to sign up for a membership online, or pay a $5 fee to enter the market.

Richard Lee, director of the health department's food safety program, told SF Weekly earlier this week that while early iterations of the market took place in private residences, the event had grown and recently been put on in locations such as the Public Works dance club, which is more accessible to the public.

Rabins says that he asked DPH inspectors yesterday exactly where they drew the line between a "public" and "private" event, and did not get an answer. He says he plans to meet with officials from the city attorney's office to try to get a sense for what steps the market might need to take to qualify again as a members-only club.

Rabins says his market provides a centralized forum for amateur cooks to sell their food with some level of supervision. "I think that if you shut down the market, what that does is disperse it," he says. "People are still going to do this stuff, but they're going to do it in front of bars and galleries, with no oversight."

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