Skip to comments.CBS 2 Investigation: Underground — And Illegal — NYC Dinner Parties
Posted on 09/11/2013 8:16:54 PM PDT by iowamark
As you sit down to dinner, this story illustrates eating out like you have never experienced before. We are talking about super-secret, illegal dining experiences hosted in homes.
CBS 2 investigative reporter Tamara Leitner went undercover to see firsthand how this underground world works.
It may look like a dinner party, but its really an underground supper club.
The diners are a mix of New Yorkers and tourists. CBS 2s undercover cameras captured one experience eight people who didnt know each other eating a meal in a strangers home.
That hostess, Naama Shafi, writes about food but is not a chef. Leitner found her through a website, which connects amateur foodies and professional chefs in 20 different countries with people who want unique dining experiences.
Clandestine dinner parties like the one Leitner attended have become more common in New York City. And insiders told Leitner they are completely unregulated.
When asked at the dinner, do you ever worry about getting caught? Michael Patlazhan responded, I definitely do.
Patlazhan is a professional chef who also hosts underground supper clubs. He cooks with blow torches, nitrogen and even a vacuum machine to create unusual meals.
Thats the things with supper clubs, theyre in a sense illegal just because they are underground no one knows about them. So if the Health Department did come they would obviously shut it down. So theres always a little bit of worry, Patlazhan said.
To stay under the radar, Patlazhan changes the location every time and keeps the guest list exclusive through a members-only website.
Its definitely kind of a secret and I think thats the interesting part about it. And a lot of it is word of mouth, Patlazhan said.
But some critics have concerns about these unregulated dinner parties.
It definitely falls into a gray area, said Leon Lubarsky, owner of Letter Grade Consulting.
Lubarskys staff of retired New York City health inspectors advises restaurants on health regulations.
When asked if the underground restaurants should be regulated, Lubarsky told Leitner, Yes, they should be regulated by the same system that regulates every restaurant in New York City.
The Health Department refused to discuss the issue on camera but in a statement told CBS 2: In New York City, people who offer meals to the public for money are considered food service establishments and need permits. The city does not allow meals to be served to members of the public in someones home.
So, Leitner went back to ask Shafi about the dinner parties.
Leitner: You guys are breaking the law by serving people meals and charging.
Shafi: Yeah. The reality is they are here and people really love them.
In the meantime, foodies like Shafi and professional chefs like Patlazhan continue to host these covert supper clubs.
I want to do it as much as possible so my goal would be to do it two to three times a week, so kind of like a restaurant on the weekends, Patlazhan said.
But if caught hosting an underground dinner party, the hosts could be fined $2,000 and ordered to shut down.
The price to get into one of these underground supper clubs ranges from $40 to several hundred. Some of the hosts say they are in it simply for the love of food, while others hope to turn a profit.
I bet they even allow salt shakers on the table!
Well... seems to me that if they offered the meals for free to one another that would remove the shadow. God blesses reciprocity, y’know... that’s heaven’s dance.
someone should make a bumper sticker : “Capitalism is not a crime”
Try to imagine this story as recently as 1985. We are the boiling frog.
“SWAT, party of 8, SWAT, your table is ready...”
And it isn’t.
This is kind of a weird quasi-restauranteurism. I’d bet... all they need to do to get the government to stop trying to regulate this is to make it officially into privately hosted dinner parties. Whoever is hosting offers the food gratis to the guests, who can be as restricted a list as they wish (i.e. people who promise to reciprocate). Do it at some neutral site like a banquet hall if using the restaurant itself incurs difficulties. There’s always some way around this.
Is this like a liberty taxi?
“they are completely unregulated”
There’s the communist rub: It ain’t “regulated”, meaning taxed. We can choose to go to homes for dinner but not if money is involved. Uncle Stupid wants his cut.
... so if they do it for free ... nothing to tax.
I’m guessing an unregistered Fondue set is a no go.
SWAT, party of 8, SWAT, your table is ready...
Go to any neighborhood with a large number of illegals, and you will find homes with restaurants, rental rooms, convenience stores, and everything else. No big stories about that.
NY is just upset it isn’t getting its cut from the rich guys running this.
I throw “Unregulated” Dinner Parties every year, at Thanksgiving.