America’s First Legal Home Restaurant to Open in California

Good cooks who give great dinner parties hear this all the time: “You should open a restaurant.”

Cooks who are not just good but also smart realize that there’s a world of difference between hosting a meal — however elaborate and well-prepared — for friends at home and going into the highly competitive restaurant business for real.

Earlier this year, however, California passed a law, AB-626, permitting home cooks to open restaurants where they live — the first state in the nation to do so. Innovations like this help make the Golden State one of America’s best states to live in.

An organization called Foodnome, which offers support to would-be home-restaurateurs, estimates that it costs almost $250,000 on average to open a regular restaurant in California — and that’s not going to be a fancy one in a prime location with designer decor and a blue-chip wine cellar. By permitting the sale of home-cooked food, says Foodnome, AB-626 “opens the door for the first time for home cooks to enter the food economy, expand their opportunities, and nourish their neighborhoods.”

The bill, called the Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations Act (MEHKO), went into effect on January 1st, but the law requires county and city health departments to sign off on individual applications for home restaurant permits, and the first one has just been granted — to one Meghan McConaghy Chane of Riverside County, California, southeast of Los Angeles.

To qualify for a MEHKO permit, the applicant must not only pass local health and safety inspections but must obtain a California Food Manager’s Certificate.

To insure that home restaurants remain small-scale businesses, the law caps the annual gross income of such establishments at $50,000 a year — so don’t look for a home restaurant, no matter how popular, to become one of the highest grossing restaurants in America.

There is no word as to when Chane plans to open her home restaurant, or what the theme or style of food will be. Whenever that happens, it might make the list of the most promising restaurants opening of the year.