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New Law Puts Gloves On California Bartenders

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Bartender Cameron Hall hadn't heard of a new California law that bans culinary workers from touching uncooked food with their bare hands.

The rule applies to bartenders, who are now supposed to wear gloves to put limes in the mojitos and cherries in the Manhattans — even to scoop ice into a glass.

But when a reporter fills him in, Hall stops serving drinks at Rocco's Tavern, a little spot in downtown Culver City, just long enough to rant.

"It'd just be a pain," he says. "It'd be a nuisance. I'm gonna start making my customers wear gloves, in opposition!"

Hall says the law is unnecessary, as his bar is always on guard, ready for an unannounced food inspector to drop in, keeping up with multiple health and safety codes already on the books.

It's not just the nuisance of the gloves, he says. It's how they will change the art of bartending.

What would be the hardest thing to do with gloves on? Hall answers, "Shake hands."

California Assemblyman Richard Pan, a Democrat who heads the committee that introduced the glove rule, says the law is not that onerous.

For starters, Pan says the law was written after conversations between lawmakers, health officials and some of the establishments that would have to abide by the rule.

"The purpose of the law was not to force everyone to wear gloves, as much as to ensure that we have cleanliness and food safety in restaurants," he says.

Pan says regulators are still figuring out how they'll enforce the law. For the first six months, no one will be punished for not wearing gloves. They'll just get warnings.

Also, restaurants and bars can apply for exemptions to the rule if they adhere to strict training requirements and written guidelines.

Pan does admit, gloves can't fix all food safety issues.

"I think that we should keep our food clean and safe," he says. "That doesn't always mean wearing gloves. A glove by itself does not magically make everything clean."

Since the law passed, a change.org petition was launched to exempt bartenders from the glove rule. In just a few days, it got over 5,000 signatures.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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