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San Diego Green Lights Mini-Restaurants Operated Out of Home Kitchens

Microenterprise kitchens get a two-year temporary authorization

A woman pours oil onto a salad. Shutterstock

Fancy yourself a restaurant-caliber cook? San Diegans can capitalize on their culinary and entrepreneurship skills thanks to a new ordinance that will enable people to run small-scale restaurants out of their home. The County of San Diego’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday, January 11 to unanimously approve a two-year temporary authorization for these microenterprise home kitchen operations or MEHKOS; the board will be authorizing the ordinance again on January 26, with the law taking effect 30 days after that.

The microenterprise kitchens could fulfill a variety of purposes, from serving as test kitchens for future restaurants to helping to feed communities and support area families. “Legally implemented MEHKOS can serve as incubators for aspiring restaurateurs to test out and vet a menu while learning the basics of what it takes to run a small-scale retail operation,” Board Vice Chair Nora Vargas said in a statement. “I want to make sure that families and businesses in our region are thriving, not just surviving, and this opens the door for home cooks to do just that.”

The County of San Diego will be regulating these businesses, requiring health permits from restaurant operators and conducting food safety inspections on home kitchens. The mini-restaurants will be allowed to sell 30 in-person, takeout, or delivery meals a day with a maximum of 60 meals per week.

Other restrictions under the state law include that the restaurants must be operated by the resident living in the apartment or home and they can’t have more than one full-time employee excluding family members. Sales must be capped at $50,000 per year, and the businesses cannot simultaneously function as caterers, temporary event vendors, mobile event vendors or cottage food operators.

The county will reportedly be studying San Diego area microenterprise kitchens during this two-year temporary period to determine if the ordinance should become permanent.