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Local Governments Placing More Restrictions on Business

The past few months has seen a spike in activity by local governments across New York State to regulate new aspects of your business. The most common activity has been around environmental issues – plastic bags, plastic straws, disposable cutlery and polystyrene (Styrofoam) bans of one sort or another. The state banned plastic bags for some uses, but restaurants are exempt from the state ban. Some local governments are enacting local laws to extend the ban to include restaurants. Others are imposing local definitions of “recyclable paper bags” under the state law to require different bags than allowed by the state law. All of these efforts cause confusion to the public and the business community and are likely unlawful – not that it matters to these wrong-headed officials.

Bans on polystyrene and disposable cutlery are also popping up across the state. Most of these proposals prohibit food service establishments from providing customers with polystyrene containers for takeout and from using disposable cutlery made from plastic but they don’t prohibit stores from selling these items to the public. So your restaurant can’t give a customer one Styrofoam container or plastic fork, but the customer can go to the local store and buy them.

Another emerging area of local regulation is plastic straws. A number of governments have adopted local laws restricting plastic straws – several have banned them completely while others allow you to provide straws upon the request of the customer. The state legislature may take up this subject next year so perhaps there will be a statewide straw rule.

Monroe County recently enacted a law to require restaurants to secure grease traps. A toddler fell into a local restaurant’s grease trap in July and died spurring their action. Scheduled to take effect at the end of the month, the new law requires grease traps to be locked or bolted in and secured with a heavy cover. The Monroe County Department of Public Health will be responsible for enforcing this law once it takes effect.