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Legality of Supper Club in Home...

I have had an idea brewing in my mind for a while, but am curious about the ethical and legal potholes it could bring. At the very least, a discussion is in order.

I love to cook, I think I'm fairly good at it, and I love hosting parties. Unfortunately, people rarely come and when they do, I feel like the food is under-appreciated- it is not usually the emphasis of the gathering. So, I had the idea of a supper club- invite four people once or twice a month, at random (1st 4 to respond to an ad, an online invitation, etc, even random strangers if there is interest) to create a 4-course meal with wine/cocktail pairings for a small fee, or do as some dinner clubs do and put out a basket for anonymous donations. It wouldn't be explicitly for the money, but it would help to offset the fees of cooking and executing such a dinner.

I am chiefly concerned about the issues this could bring and how they would be dealt with- allergies, illness, licenses. If there is a transaction involved, does that make it a business? (I'm a 1L so we haven't gotten that far in contracts yet, ha ha) If no set fee is charged and people donate at their own discretion, is that income? I'm really curious because I want to achieve something casual, yet really fun- in between a party and a restaurant, and am curious to hear your thoughts. I just love the idea of spontaneous, seasonal dinners with mystery menus and want to know how I could best do this and share what I love. And it could be a great way to meet new, food-loving people. :-)

Thank you for your suggestions and input!

Please note that I am not looking for explicit legal advice. I am more interested in fostering a dialogue on this theoretical party that I would eventually like to actualize.

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    1. re: ipsedixit

      I'm not asking for explicit or binding legal advice- I haven't gotten that far in the planning where that's necessary. I'm simply asking for more experiential information that may or may not include legal snags. Thanks for the helpful tip, though!

      1. re: zammdogg

        You don't seem to be asking for legal advice, but your proposal is not legal.

        1. re: John E.

          Okay- that's what I was curious about. Again, because it was such a broad idea, legal advice would not really be prudent, but simply knowing that it is not legal is still important. Bummer.

          1. re: John E.

            If you are running a business out of your home, even a part time one, the zoning in most municipalities require that it not have an impact on the neighborhood, such as that caused by traffic, parking, noise, smells, etc. At 4 people a couple of times a month you are on the borderline of creating a nuisance depending on your neighborhood. I knew of someone who did catering out of their house. Eventually they started using their house for the events to be held in on occasion - the neighbors soon complained and that was the end of that. Health regulations become a whole other issue.

          2. re: zammdogg

            You write: "I'm not asking for explicit or binding legal advice"

            Really?

            What part of the title of your post am I not understanding?

            >>>LEGALITY of Supper Club in Home<<< (emphasis own)

            1. re: ipsedixit

              YOU!!!!........You......you're good Ipse!! That's a trained eye for ya!

              1. re: jrvedivici

                Ipse,

                My proposed title was "Potential legality, recipe, cocktail, guest, monetary benefit and risk, health, conversation, venue, and lighting questions regarding an imagined, but not yet realized supper club in home," but that was a little too large for Chow, so I simplified it. I'm pretty sure there's a difference between explicit, binding legal advice and general issues that might come up.

                Thanks again- I think I have a lot of great information, but I appreciate your points.

        2. Perhaps you can start a Meetup group and charge event fees. That way, only like-minded people would join the meetup. People who are available for the time/date of your event and are interested in the food theme of the evening would RSVP. You can advertise the event fee as a way to offset the cost of "refreshments" and as a way to avoid no-shows.

          You could then let others host events also and be a guest instead of an organizer. Either way, you'll get to meet like-minded people and talk food.

          http://help.meetup.com/customer/porta...

          1. I'm sorry I can't answer your questions, but I wondered if you have heard of eatwith.com? It sounds pretty similar to what you've described.

              1. Sounds like you should be an eatwith.com host

                http://www.eatwith.com/

                As a 1L you have time for this?

                7 Replies
                1. re: Bkeats

                  http://www.eatwith.com/#!/brand/safety

                  While the fairly new Eat With company appears to be growing rapidly and plenty of marketing endorsements appear on their site, the legal Q&A is very thin in print, with plenty of caveats that are printed.

                  I'd like to know what liability coverage exists at the host stage; not the booking agent/service stage. When I inquired, I didn't get many answers.

                  1. re: HillJ

                    Eatwith looks like a lot of fun. Sadly, not in my area (yet).

                    1. re: tcamp

                      Fun, sure. As an example of cooking in the home for a fee, I'd want more intel.

                      A Rep from EatW posted on CH recently inviting members to join, participate and inquire. So I did.

                      1. re: HillJ

                        There was a miso making class in someone's NYC area home that intrigued me.

                        1. re: tcamp

                          No kidding. Are you gonna call and ask for more info? Might be interesting to find out the dealie-o.

                    2. re: HillJ

                      They have liability coverage- but currently, only for hosts in Israel and Spain. That gives me pause for thought for using it now, but if they were to expand for the future, I might consider it.

                    3. re: Bkeats

                      I'll definite check out eatwith- as for time, no, not to implement, but to dream, yes!