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McInnis introduces bill to let restaurants grill outside

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Helping small businesses grow starts with allowing restaurants to grill outdoors, says state Sen. Tom McInnis, R-25.

Earlier this year, McInnis filed a bill that’s relatively short and has a simple goal — “to allow restaurants that prepare or serve food for human consumption to use outdoor grills for food preparation.” The change would help businesses in rural North Carolina that may not be able to afford expensive fire suppression systems, he said.

McInnis says a fire suppression and hood system could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“Up in the northern part of the county, down in Rockwell, out in the county somewhere, or out near the crossroads, Bostian Heights, they can’t afford that,” McInnis said. “They could afford a grill that would meet the specifications of my bill, cook outside, bring the food in, serve it to the customer and charge a good fee for it.”

Less than a page long, the bill would permit restaurants to use an outdoor grill if the following conditions are met: the grill is made of stainless steel and is stationed on a level, concrete foundation; the grill has a semi-permanent cover to protect it from weather, dust and animals; the grill and concrete foundation are cleaned daily; and food cooked on the grill is processed inside a permitted establishment and inside a room that meets sanitation requirements.

It’s a common-sense bill, McInnis said. He said the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has expressed its support for the bill.

“How many times have you ever heard, in any state that allows this, about mass death, mass sickness, because somebody ate a burger cooked on the grill,” he said. “You know, this is an opportunity for small business in Rowan County and throughout North Carolina to expand their business.”

In a news release when he introduced the bill, McInnis said small, rural restaurants need “every bit of help” to survive. He likened the ability of restaurants to cook outside to vendors at county fairs.

On Feb. 2, McInnis’ bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce and Insurance. It hasn’t seen any action since then. Sen. Andrew Brock, R-34, signed on to be a cosponsor of the bill. McInnis is the first primary sponsor.

McInnis said the latest version of the bill includes suggestions made by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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