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Bartenders are cool, right? At least that's part of the cultural mythology. But you know what some say is not cool? Having to wear gloves when you put a slice of lime in a gin and tonic. But as of January 1st of this year, a new food safety law in California bans culinary workers from touching some types of food with their bare hands - and that includes barkeeps. NPR's Sam Sanders hit the pavement to get reaction.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Cameron Hall didn't even know about the law when I mentioned California code section 113961. He tends bar at Rocco's Tavern, a little spot in downtown Culver City. Once I filled him in, Hall stopped serving drinks just long enough to rant.

CAMERON HALL: Oh, it'd just be a pain. It'd be a nuisance. Yeah, I mean, I'm going to start making my customers wear gloves in opposition.


SANDERS: Hall says the law is unnecessary as his bar is already always on-guard: ready for an unannounced food inspector to drop in, keeping up with multiple health and safety codes already on the books. This new law would make bartenders like Hall, and restaurant employees, wear gloves any time they deal with food that won't be cooked before someone eats it. So, that lime garnish on your mojito, or the cherry in your Manhattan. Even the ice. Gloves for all of that now. For Hall, it's not just the nuisance of the gloves. It's how they will change the art of bartending. What would be the hardest thing to do with gloves on as a bartender?

HALL: Shake hands.

STATE ASSEMBLYMAN RICHARD PAN: The purpose of the law was not to force everyone to wear gloves as much as to ensure that we have food safety.

SANDERS: California Assemblyman Richard Pan heads the committee that introduced the glove rule. He says the law isn't really as bad as some would think. For starters, Pan says the law came out of ongoing conversations between lawmakers, health officials and restaurants. It was the culmination of lots of dialogue with some of the establishments that would have to abide by the rule. Pan also says regulators are still figuring out how they'll enforce the law. For the first 6 months in fact, there'll be a soft rollout. During that period, 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 everything. Do you personally think that bartenders should wear gloves while bartending?

PAN: I think that we should keep our food clean and safe. But that doesn't always mean wearing gloves, you know. A glove by itself does not magically make everything clean.

SANDERS: And this law, by itself, may not stand. Since it passed, a petition has been launched to exempt bartenders from the glove rule. In just a few days, it got over 5,000 signatures. Sam Sanders, NPR News.


MARTIN: This is NPR News.

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