Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Friday, July 15, 2011

Going Legit, Part 3: What's the Minimum an Underground Market Vendor Needs?

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Mo Foods at the Underground Market.
  • Mo Foods at the Underground Market.

Part three of a series in which SFoodie asks the question: With the

Underground Market now shut down, what would it take for San Francisco's

aspiring food microventures to go legit?

Before SFoodie gets into the specifics of what it will take to sell your products at a grocery store or farmers' market -- those posts will appear on Monday and Tuesday -- we wanted to double back to a basic question which unfortunately is now hypothetical:

If the Underground Market (or a similar market featuring products from small-scale, startup producers) were a fully permitted venue and/or event, what would the Health Department expect every vendor to have?

Skip the business-related permits and fictitious business name filings we mentioned on Wednesday. They're important for anyone making a go at owning their own business, but not necessary for testing the waters on whether anyone will like your new bacon-wasabi chocolate sauce. But when SFoodie talked to Richard Lee, director of San Francisco's Environmental Health Department, he was firm on a few things.

A must: The food would have to be prepared in a licensed commercial kitchen. "People can't make food at home and sell it to the general public," Lee said. "A lot of people want to, but they just can't."

The other thing every vendor would need, Lee says, is a temporary event

permit. Here's the Health Department's online page with downloadable application forms and fee schedules.

There are two types of permits -- low hazard (vendors selling prepared

foods) and high hazard (vendors selling food prepared on site -- that

includes chopping, dicing, and assembling, not just cooking). A

high-hazard vendor would need to pay a $99 application and inspection fee

plus $88 permit fee, or $187 total. A low-hazard vendor would pay $38

for the application fee plus $57 for the permit, or $95 total. Those

permits are good for one- or two-day events.

The other permit that Lee says vendors would need to have is an annual caterer permit.

The nonrefundable application fee

is $308, and the annual fee is $350. The funny thing

about this fee is: SFoodie has combed the health department's

website, and can't find an application. We have yet another e-mail out

to the department, and will update this as soon as we hear back.

By our calculations, the minimum a vendor could pay to sell at a market is $753, and that's for a one-day permit. That's all a hell of a lot more expensive than the $50 entry fee

that the Underground Market was charging, to be sure. But for the

moment, we're still in the realm of the hypothetical.

The full "Going Legit" series:
 - Part 1: Getting a business license
 - Part 2: Working out of a commercial kitchen
 - Part 3: What's the minimum an Underground Market vendor would need to be legit?
 - Part 4: Selling at the traditional farmers markets
 - Part 5: Selling to grocery stores
 - Part 6: The future of the Underground Market

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

  • Pin It

Tags: , , ,

About The Author

Jonathan Kauffman


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"