'No Bare Hands' Law Will Almost Certainly Be Repealed

On December 5th, 1933, everyone in America got really, really drunk.

For the previous 11 years, Americans had been under the oppressive regime of the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the selling of alcohol. After a long battle, an amendment to repeal the ban was proposed in February of 1933. For the next nine months, hearty debates took place at state conventions around the country, each eventually gathering up enough votes to ratify the proposal. And then, on that fateful day in December, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah ratified, giving it the necessary votes to become national law. And so, we celebrated.

Do a Google image search for "21st Amendment celebration" and you're hit with a barrage of black and white photos of toasts being raised, drinks being poured, and barrels being cracked open. It was a massive celebration the likes of which the country has rarely seen. And soon, our generation may experience the same outrageous festivities with the inevitable repeal of Section 113961 of the California Retail Food Code!

Okay, maybe not. But still, it's a big deal.

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For those who don't know the numbering of the specific sections of our more obscure state laws, the above section is the controversial "no bare hands" law in California that was put into the books earlier this year. It requires -- or, would require at least -- that all food workers in the state who are handling "ready to eat" food use gloves or other utensils instead of their bare hands. While this makes sense in a "let's stop the spread of food contamination" sense, things get shaky when you realize how broad of a reach this law has.

On the one hand, it makes sure that sandwich artists at Subway who haven't washed their hands in hours use gloves. This is good. On the other, it also makes sure that sushi chefs, and even bartenders trying to place that bit of lime on the edge of the cocktail, have to also use gloves. This is not so good.

As I found out back in January, L.A. restaurants don't believe this is the most logical of laws. But they also weren't sweating it. When I spoke to them, they felt the law would be fixed in due time. Which is why it wasn't surprising when a state assemblyman introduced AB 2130, which would repeal and amend this section of the law.

The big change in the rule is that instead of forcing everyone to use gloves, now workers can use bare hands if they keep them clean. A good, simple change that solves everything. The only thing working against it now is the ticking of the clock.

See: A part of the initial law was that it would be rolled out slowly. While January 1st was the first day it was technically on the books, it wouldn't be enforced until July 1st:

Health officers are supposed to begin penalizing bar and restaurant operators found in violation beginning July 1. The goal behind AB 2130 is to have it approved by the various Senate committees and full Senate, and approved by the Governor well in advance of the July 1 hard enforcement date.

The bill has so far passed through various assemblies of the committee. It's currently in the Senate, meaning it could be voted on any day now. And when it does, there's just about a zero percent chance it won't pass. Which means: Hooray! The tyranny of Section 113961 is nearing its end!

While we may not get to experience the same revelry and drunken shenanigans our grandparents did back in December of '33, maybe we can at least have ourselves a bonfire? A really, really tiny one?

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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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