Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Nanny Inquisition

The crusade continues, The New York Times reports:
Moonshine is the kind of cozy, lived-in Brooklyn bar that allowed customers to bring dogs inside and meat for the grill outside, both of which, it would come to learn, are against New York City health department regulations. But no one foresaw one violation uncovered during a recent surprise inspection of the Red Hook tavern.

It was tucked within the array of more common infractions on the inspectors’ forms for which Moonshine was cited: the grills, the “live dog” in the bar, fruit flies and “7 mice excreta” in the basement. If widely enforced, it is not an exaggeration to say that the rule would radically change the way thousands of bartenders do one small but vital part of their job every single day.

“A male worker observed having bare-hand contact with one slice of ready-to-eat lime while placing on top of beer bottle for patron in bar,” the citation, dated Oct. 9, states. Bare-hand contact? How else is a bartender supposed to get a ready-to-eat lime slice into a bottle of Corona for a patron? According to the health department, there are two solutions.

Plastic gloves or tongs.

In other words, every time a bartender in New York City puts a lime slice in that Corona with bare hands, he or she is breaking the law. ...

An informal survey of several bartenders on whether they use gloves or tongs when garnishing beer bottles was met with incredulity, ridicule and disdain. But when asked to perform this alien ritual, they did their best with the tongs, gripping the little wedges and guiding them into the bottles. Some fumbled, while others took to it like surgeons performing a transplant. None of them seemed happy with the thought of doing it every day.

The first stop was Smith & Wollensky, the revered brass-rail bar and steakhouse in Midtown where the staff wears sharp white coats. Patrick Ford, a bartender for 35 of his 53 years, was standing behind the polished bar amid gleaming bottles on a busy Tuesday night as he considered how to legally garnish a beer.

“I won’t wear gloves,” he said, his tall frame so thin it seemed his white coat was still on a hanger. “It’s not a doctor’s office. It’s a saloon.”

He fished out a Corona and looked around. “We don’t have tongs,” he said. “I’ll use a fork.”

He speared a little wedge of lime and walked past several amused regular customers, toward a waiting Corona. In his coat, holding the fruit before him, he looked like a mad scientist with a laboratory specimen. The lime addressed the lip of the beer bottle with uncertainty, but when Mr. Ford removed the fork, it stuck there. Men cheered.

“Hey, Patty,” one man bellowed. “Give me a Corona over here! Be sure to use a fork!”

While putting lime in beer borders on criminal, I believe the surgeon general recommends that anyone who would ban the practice be kept at least 100 yards away from any position of authority. It's just safer for everyone.

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