Not everything done at the NC General Assembly swirls around the budget and talk of spending, tax cuts and pay increases. Some bills that get debated are simple and straightforward – for example, a bill that would allow restaurants to cook outside on a grill.
In the last legislative session, Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) sponsored Senate Bill 7, which was signed into law, allowing customers who purchase a biscuit or other food item in a country or convenience store to sit down to eat. Dubbed “The Biscuit Bill,” it had some initial pushback from utilities providers worried about increased water usage.
Tillman’s point was that people were buying a biscuit or coffee using paper plates, cups and napkins, and would have to stand to eat or drink in the store, and that nothing would change except they would be able to sit instead of stand. His argument prevailed and the bill was signed into law on June 24, 2015.
This session, it’s Sen. Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) who is trying to help cut through regulations to help small, mostly rural businesses. He sponsored Senate Bill 24, “Allow Restaurants to Use Outdoor Grills.” The bill would allow restaurants to fire up the grill, just as people do at home when cooking ribs, burgers, steaks, etc.
McInnis said in a statement when he introduced the bill in February, “I proposed this bill because we realized that our small rural restaurants need help and support to be able to make it in our current market place. By passing this bill, we want to try to give the small rural restaurants the ability to cook outside just like vendors at the county fairs or the local nonprofit fundraisers do, while still protecting the health and welfare of the public.”
The bill mandates that the grill be located on the premises and be continuously supervised by an employee while in use. The cooking surface must be stainless steel or cast iron, meet sanitation requirements, and be situated on a concrete or asphalt foundation.
Also, the grill is not to be operated within 10 feet of combustible construction. All open food and utensils must have overhead protection. The grill must be kept in an enclosed area when not in operation.
Also, the grill and foundation are to be cleaned daily on days that it is used. Raw meat, poultry and fish must be prepared in a pre-portioned or ready-to-cook form, and may only be handled with utensils at the outdoor grill. Food prepared on the grill must be processed inside the permitted establishment.
The bill passed unanimously in both the Senate, on April 5, and the House today, May 11. The House did make a change to the effective date of the bill, making it effective when it is signed into law, as opposed to the original bill, which had it going into effect on October 1, 2017.
The bill will be sent back to the Senate to concur with the change in effective date.