01/15/2014 09:53 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Bartenders Say California Law Requiring They Wear Gloves Is Off-Putting, Less Hygienic

Alyson Aliano via Getty Images

As technical as the “mixologist” title may be, the last thing these cocktail artists want you to feel when you slide up to the bar for a cold one is that you’re in a sterile lab.

But a new California law banning culinary workers from touching ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands has bartenders worried it may do just that -- and make concocting drinks totally inefficient.

A change to the California Retail Food Code that went into effect January 1 requires disposable gloves or utensils be used whenever handling foods that won’t be cooked or reheated before being served. Though many of them may not be aware of it yet, that law also applies to bartenders handling ice, spiraling grapefruit garnishes and hand-selecting fresh ingredients.

"Technically speaking, these rules do apply to bars," California Restaurant Association spokesperson Angelica Pappas told the Los Angeles Times. "It’s been a common question we’ve heard ... so there may be more information to come on this in guidance documents from the health inspectors."

Matthew Biancaniello, a bartender and “cocktail chef,” said he feels gloves might set a strange tone.

"I'm always touching any kind of herbs from my garden, touching persimmons to feel for their plumpness or softness,” he said. "But the gloves thing, even when I go to buffets and see it, I flinch a little and think 'hospital.'"

The law will have a soft rollout in its first six months to a year, meaning bars and restaurants found in violation will not have any health code point deductions and will only receive a warning.

Other have pointed out that gloves may be excellent germ-carriers, since bartenders are always handling both drink ingredients and money.

“You are constantly washing your hands or having them touching ice and juice…it will just get into the gloves anyway,” said Davis bartender Jen Naruo-Stefanac. “It would just be a huge pain.”

When a similar law was considered in Oregon in 2012, members of the food industry argued that gloves would be neither environmentally nor hygienically friendly.

“It's going to create waste, and if you have people wearing gloves, odds are they're not going to want to wash their hands as often,” Daniel Mondok of the Dundee restaurant Pauleé told Eater. “It could actually make things worse.”



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