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Texas Restaurant Law

Smoke & Fat: What Texas Restaurants Need to Know in ‘09

Posted in Commentary, Legislation, News, Recent Law Trends

Laws in Texas are changing about what restaurants serve and what they allow from their patrons. Understanding of these trends now could be the difference between prosperity and destruction for Texas restaurants in the coming years.

Smoke

As reported here several weeks ago in “Where There’s Smoke . . . You’re Not In Dallas ” the City of Dallas recently beefed up its prior smoking ban to include all public indoor places. On Friday, the Texas legislature jumped on the band wagon when the House State Affairs Committee approved a watered down version of an original all-encompassing smoke ban. According to an article found at the Austin-American Statesman’s website at this link, “the original measure would have banned smoking in indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars. But under the version approved 8-4 by the House State Affairs Committee, bars not subject to existing local bans would be exempt, and the ban would not apply to counties with fewer than 115,000 residents.”

Fat

The Texas legislature also tinkered with fat content on Friday. As originally reported on this site at “Texas Legislature Says, “Trim the Fat” (Trans Fat, That Is),” Texas has been debating what to do about fat for some time. This time, as reported by the Houston Chronicle at this link, “the Texas Senate voted Friday to ban the use of most trans fats in restaurants.”

However, as with smoke, there are several exemptions to the bill’s ban on trans fats. First, there is an “exemption for trans fats used to make cakes, pies and other bakery items,” which lawmakers are calling the Icing Exemption. Next, there are “exemptions . . .  for food served by grocery stores, fire departments and certain caterers.” Finally, non-profits were protected “to ensure that corn dogs and other fried goodies served at rodeos and state fairs could still be cooked with trans fat,” the same article reported.

What to Do?

Keep in mind that neither of the bills mentioned above has become law yet, but the writing is on the wall. Regarding the smoke ban, it seems only a matter of time before laws will eventually ban smoking altogether indoors at least in Texas. Thus, any business that relies or is heavily dependent on smoking patrons should start considering ways to supplement that revenue.

As to trans fat, it seems likely that a version of the above referenced bill is likely to pass. Accordingly, restaurant owners, cooks, and chefs need to ensure that their recipes eliminate trans fats. For now, bakeries, non-profits, grocery stores and caterers seem safe, but the enacted version of the above bill may eliminate these exemptions. Accordingly, if either you or your business fall into one of these exemptions, it will be important to understand if these exemptions make it to the final approved version of the law.

Keep checking in for updates of our continued coverage of the legislation for these and other issues affecting restaurants in Texas.