Underground food sales become a target 

While many San Franciscans likely have a favorite farmers market that they shop at, far fewer know that The City also boasts an underground market.

City resident Iso Rabins is the man behind the clandestine San Francisco shopping opportunity, which debuted last month and drew a few hundred people, he said. He has already set the date, Jan. 28, for the second nighttime event, where local foodies sell their homemade and homegrown goods for cash.

Rabins hasn’t confirmed the next location, but said a handful of vendors will gather to sell everything from homemade beef jerky and jams to soaps and sauerkraut.

This time, the 28-year-old food forager said, he has found a loophole to make sure the market is legal.

San Francisco Health Department inspectors showed up at the last market, which was held in December inside a three-bedroom Mission district apartment, claiming it wasn’t legal to sell non-certified foods. They didn’t shut it down; instead they told Rabins he needed to work with the department to come into compliance. One way would be to make it an official club, he said.

So this time, anyone can show up at the door the night of the event, but they have to sign up to become a member before having immediate access to the market, Rabins said.

That’s not going to cut it, according to Health Department officials. Unless Rabins can provide a list of attendees in advance as well as meeting dates, the market will not be considered a club, and therefore will not be legal, said Stephanie Cushing, principal environment health inspector with the Health Department.

“No walk-ins — that’s not going to satisfy us,” Cushing said. “If these people are making jams and foods, we need them to do it some place that is permitted by us so that we can make an inspection.”

Plus, it’s possible that there are other city departments that have to sign off on this business venture, Cushing said.

Rabins said his intent with the underground market is to make it easier, not harder, for young, startup foodies to market and sell their products.

“I think about all the people who are making interesting things at home, and who really know what they are doing but they aren’t able to go legitimate with it,” Rabins said.

Shakirah Simley, who sold her homemade jams at the first market, said she always abides by health regulations when making and packaging her jams.

“Just because it’s underground doesn’t mean products are not well-made or not safe,” said 24-year-old Simley, who is starting her own company Slow Jams.


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