Cali Bartenders Furious About Wearing Rubber

Ross Gardiner
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On the very same day that Los Angeles made the bold and necessary step of outlawing the free and excessive distribution of plastic bags, the state of California passed a law that many within the service industry feel is reactionary, ridiculous, wasteful and smacks of a blatant lack of consultation with the affected businesses.

AB 1252 is a new law that states that all ’employees [must] wear single-use gloves, as specified, when contacting food and food-contact surfaces’, and is one of the most hotly debated changes in the industry at the moment.  

While it’s clearly an attempt to make the drinking and dining experience safer for the customer, the bill has been met with collective disdain among California’s burgeoning community of bartenders and mixologists that are actively involved with the ingredients that they push. Some see it as an insult, an affront to their ability to maintain a hygienic workspace, while others bemoan the fact that people just don’t want to see a bartender wearing gloves like a dentist.

“When I first saw the article on the LA Times site, I checked the URL to make sure I wasn’t being punked,” said Josh Miller, former bartender and creator of rum blog Inu A Kena, who enacted this petition to overturn the law, “I can’t stand the idea of a bartender slapping a mint sprig or expressing an orange twist in his rubber-gloved hands.”

‘Okay, who wants a mojito?!’

Miller’s passionate, concise petition refers to the country’s ‘second cocktail renaissance‘ being undermined by legislators out of touch with the needs and requirements of an industry in the process of transforming itself. But Josh believes that the industry itself needs to step up and be more involved in legislative agenda.

“Industry groups need to be more vigilant during the early stages of the legislative process to ensure the lawmakers fully understand the consequences of bad legislation like AB 1252,” he stated.

It isn’t just bartenders that are concerned about this law. Bar owners are also considering the impact. In a recent conversation with Punch, Erick Castro, owner of Polite Provisions in San Diego, expressed concerns at both the environmental and monetary costs of the bill.

“With the number of transactions our bartenders go through a night,” said Castro, “that’s something like 200 pairs of rubber gloves a person. It’s an environmental nightmare.”

But as with everything controversial, AB 1252 is not entirely without its sympathizers. Jason Bran, renowned LA bartender and consulting manager of the Warwick in Hollywood, claims that the bill could be a positive step if it’s what the customers want.

“I believe that the best cocktails come from those who are genuinely concerned for the best interest of their guests,” he noted in response to the backlash from service industry professionals, “I don’t like touching money and then touching things that go into people’s drinks.”

Jason thinks that the industry should see it as a challenge to improve hygiene standards and adapt to what the customer wants. After all, when the soggy dollar bills that you constant touch often test positive for traces of e-coli, MRSA and salmonella, the argument certainly starts to transcend the comfort and ease of the bartender.

The law came into effect on January 1st and it remains to be seen how it will impact business behind the bar. One wonders how on earth Gov. Jerry Brown expects to feasibly police this law. Once it’s in full swing and the grace period is over, what will the swanky speakeasys look like? Will we start to see a lot more cocktail shakers slipping dangerously from latex hands? Will carefully poised tongs and gloves, like the scene of a heart bypass, become the norm when applying a simple garnish? Or will the bartenders’ voices be heard and this law will be retracted on the basis of its negative effect on the environment and its excessive treatment of what some regard as a problem knee-jerked out of proportion?

Follow the link here to sign the petition and show your support against AB 1252.

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