Black Market Entrees


Unofficial, off-the-radar clubs are nothing new. Speakeasies flourished during prohibition. New York, when I lived there anyway, had a handful of places like Milk and Honey or SubMercer, and it's not long ago that the kibosh was finally put on DC's (better known, but still low-profile) House of Secrets. California, a smoking-ban pioneer, has given rise to its share of "smokeasies."

Still, places like these have typically been clubs, places where folks could smoke or drink things frowned on by local authorities, or at least feel the thrill of being somewhere "underground." But Radley Balko points to a New York Times piece on a spate of underground restaurants seeking to turn out good food without having to deal with the hassle of licensing requirements and zoning regulations. Looks like the black market is going mainstream. As the regs proliferate, how long before it's taken for granted that an evening out will involve lawbreaking as a matter of course?

NEXT: Grand Theft Lotto

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  1. “how long before it’s taken for granted that an evening out will involve lawbreaking as a matter of course?”

    Well, it’s been about 15 years for me. If they don’t want me breaking any more laws, they’d better stop passing them.

  2. they killed House of Secrets? Bastards!

  3. Y’know, I’m not such a purist that I would have a whole lotta problem with the government giving a seal of approval or some such. (Although I’m aware that private organizations could very well accomplish the same.) But the real injustice arises when the gov’t has the power to shut down operations. Hell, if people wanna pay to eat where the gov’t hasn’t given its okay, I say let ’em!!

  4. You might want to make sure they haven’t chained any of the exit doors shut. These underground places don’t have the best record when it comes to following fire codes.

  5. Fire codes, health codes, building codes, etc. etc. Not that any of those matter, of course. Say, what are those black specks in my white rice?

  6. Notwithstanding the last couple of commies who knew the password to get into the Hit & Run speakeasy, I’ve been trying to get the name of Cincinnati changed to Sinincincinnati. We have a struggling infant downtown entertainment area that pols are trying their best to smother. True of other metro areas?
    I just wanna have fun so I’m proposing a virtues-free, viceful, cop-free, gummint-free zone.
    What are the chances?

  7. Douglas Fletcher,

    200 over a ten-year period, out of how many?

    Part of the problem with government licensing is that, by its very nature, it prevents the emergence of voluntary private certification agencies by which consumers could compare the safety measures of different establishments. The government’s safety inspection regime is likely to force out any private competition in safety certification. And given the existence of government licensing and inspection, no speakeasy is likely to publicly advertise, “Hey, we meet the safety standards of this private certification firm.”

    During prohibition, lots of people went blind drinking bad stuff. That’s what happens when all the market channels of disseminating information to consumers are driven underground.

  8. No commie here — I’m just referring to a couple of actual incidents in the past ten years that killed a couple hundred people. As in, died of smoke inhalation. Maybe if you get your way they could change the city’s name to Incineratornatti.

  9. The thrill of risking inceneration just adds to the fun.
    BTW, the big Beverly Hills fire happened very near here.
    Did gummint regs cause or prevent that fire?

  10. I believe the market can be self-regulating. But one thing I agree with, caveat emptor is more important when there’s not someone else doing the checking up for you! Right now we’re not used to thinking for ourselves about such matters. Again, granting licenses of approval to places that pass code but not shutting down places that don’t and letting people take their chances from there would be fine with me.

  11. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/26/2004 11:25:30
    I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.

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