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Local food, Underground restuarants

Organizational Units

Sturm College of Law


Instagram pictures of elegantly plated dinners, long farm-style tables, and well-to-do people laughing in what looks like a loft apartment are followed by commenters asking, “Where is this?” This is the world of underground dining. Aspiring and established chefs invite strangers into their homes (or their friends’ stores after hours, or the empty warehouse at the edge of town, or the nearest farm) for a night of food and revelry in exchange for cash. Although decidedly anti-establishment, these secret suppers and pop-up restaurants are popular — there are websites to help people locate them, and many respected publications have penned stories about their rise. While some municipalities have been proactive in regulating these events, in other locales these dinners remain completely illegal, violating health, zoning, employment, and business-licensing regulations. At the most basic level, this Essay considers what society should make of these dinners. It asks how we should balance our societal commitments to entrepreneurial innovation, community-building, and eating good food against the rule of law.

Publication Statement

Originally published as Sarah B. Schindler, Regulating the Undergound: Secret Supper Clubs, Pop-Up Restaurants, and the Role of Law, 82 Univ. Chi. L. Rev. Dialogue 16 (2015),