RALEIGH — A bill introduced Thursday by state Sen. Tom McInnis could free up restaurants to cook in a different location.
McInnis, R-Richmond, is a primary sponsor of a Senate Bill 24, which would add a subsection to N.C. General Statute 130A-248 — the regulation of food and lodging establishments — to allow “establishments that prepare or serve food for human consumption to use outdoor grills for food preparation.”
According to a statement from McInnis’ office, restaurants that meet certain standards would be able to prepare food inside, take it outside to grill, and then bring the food back in for the consumer.
The Senator, now in his second term, said the change would help small restaurants to grow and prepare foods they were previously unable to because of regulations.
“We have submitted this bill to assist small rural restaurants with the ability to cook outside just like vendors at the county fairs or the local nonprofit fundraisers do every day,” he said in a statement. “Our small rural restaurants need every bit of help to be able to survive in the current market place with only the necessary rules to protect the health and welfare of the public.”
The bill lays out four criteria that must be met for outdoor grilling:
The outdoor grill is made of stainless steel and is stationed on a level, concrete foundation.
The outdoor grill has a semi-permanent cover to protect it from weather, dust and animals.
The outdoor grill, semi-permanent cover and concrete foundation are cleaned daily.
Food prepared for the outdoor grill is processed inside the permitted establishment, in the kitchen or in a room that meets the requirements of sanitation specified for a restaurant kitchen.
McInnis said in a telephone interview Thursday night that there are many mom and pop restaurants in rural North Carolina that can’t afford pricey fire-suppressant systems which could benefit from this legislation.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services regulations currently permit beverages to be prepared outdoors and allow outdoor cooking for temporary establishments.
While state regulations currently do not specifically prohibit outdoor grilling, he pointed out that its not permitted, either, adding that his bill brings clarity, especially when dealing with local health departments.
McInnis said at least one restaurant, Lefler’s Place in Montgomery County, has been grandfathered in because it started cooking outdoors before there were prohibitive regulations.
Other sponsors of the bill are Sens. Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg, Jim Davis, R-Macon, Andrew Brock, R-Davie, Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, and Ronald Rabin, R-Harnett.
Following introduction, the bill passed its first reading, was referred to the Senate Rules committee, withdrawn and sent to the Commerce and Insurance Committee. If it finds favor, it will return to the Rules committee.
If the bill makes it through the legislative process, it would become effective on Oct. 1.
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.