Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A New Model Taking Shape for the Underground Market

Fans of the San Francisco Underground Market may have something to look forward to in a few months, as founder Iso Rabins recently tweeted that after meeting with his lawyer "it's looking good" for the market to be open again soon, possibly in September.

A lot has happened to the Underground Market since June. After receiving a cease and desist letter from the health department regarding the belief that the market was in fact a public—not private—event, Rabins has been hard at work trying to get the Market in compliance without robbing it of its soul. It starts with addressing the requirement of producing publicly-consumed food in a licensed kitchen instead of at home.

The vision is to open a center that will support the Underground Market with a number of revenue streams, ultimately subsidizing the cost for the vendors to work in the Market-run commercial kitchen. Far from just an incubator kitchen, Rabins envisions the yet-to-be-named complex in Soma to "be a space where Underground Market vendors, established artisan food businesses, and the general non-professional public, can have a place to create and connect around home grown food." To that end, it will likely feature food-related instruction, business advise, a rooftop garden, a restaurant and a movie space.

In the market's absence venues like New Taste Marketplace have taken up some of the slack, with several Underground Market veterans appearing at the July Marketplace. According to Director Elianna Friedman, July's New Taste event featured the largest number of vendors in its history. New Taste is allowed to operate under San Francisco's "Craven Allowance" for non-profit charities, which skirts the health code issues that led to the closure of the Underground Market.

To chronicle the ups, downs, ins and outs of opening "a million dollar shared use kitchen," Rabins has decided to post the details of the process on the forageSF blog. The first post describes the thinking behind the incubator kitchen and how the center will strive to address the needs of both producers and consumers.

Oh, and good luck to Rabins on sorting through the over 500 suggested names for the new kitchen.

SF Underground Market (@foragesf)

Via: Twitter

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