Regulating the Underground: Secret Supper Clubs, Pop-Up Restaurants, and the Role of Law

19 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2015 Last revised: 12 Mar 2015

See all articles by Sarah Schindler

Sarah Schindler

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Date Written: February 5, 2015


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.

Keywords: land use, environmental law, food law, food sovereignty, secret suppers, pop-up restaurants, zoning, health, liberty, skyboxification

JEL Classification: I12, I18, K11, K32, L66, N50, O13, O18, P32, Q1, Q18, Q15, R14, R52

Suggested Citation

Schindler, Sarah, Regulating the Underground: Secret Supper Clubs, Pop-Up Restaurants, and the Role of Law (February 5, 2015). 82 University of Chicago Law Review Dialogue 16 (2015), Available at SSRN:

Sarah Schindler (Contact Author)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States

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