San Diego County opened its application process on Friday for those seeking a "Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations" license.
In January, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a two-year temporary authorization allowing home cooks county-wide to operate mini-restaurants from their homes.
Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKOs)License holders may serve up to 30 in-person, take out, or deliver meals with a maximum of 60 a week.
An application must be submitted to operate a microenterprise kitchen. Additionally, home cooks must earn a food safety manager certificate from an approved school, pass an initial inspection and undergo annual inspections.
Prospective microenterprise kitchens must undergo a private well test to ensure water safety.
Other rules prohibit home cooks from producing or serving raw milk products or raw oysters, and from working as a caterer or event vendor, and specify conditions for food storage.
County Board Vice-Chair Nora Vargas and Supervisor Joel Anderson proposed to approve the ordinance.
“We have a very unique opportunity to uplift nontraditional food entrepreneurs during a really challenging time for so many,” Supervisor Nora Vargas said. “These entrepreneurs represent an informal economy that has been present in our community for decades. But during the pandemic we saw more and more of these ventures pop up in our communities,” Vargas said in January.
According to the county, home-kitchen restaurants had numerous potential economic and community benefits, such as giving aspiring restaurateurs a way to earn a living. The county reported that the overall start-up cost is about $750, rather than spending the estimated $275,000 average cost of opening a storefront restaurant.
"People are getting quality food from their neighbors,” Anderson said in January. “Most of the MEHKOS draw people from a handful of miles from their home. Because the cap is so low they don’t compete with restaurants in any way, shape or form.”
County staff plans to study local home-kitchen restaurants during the two-year ordinance and bring that data back to the board to consider whether to make it permanent.