An N.C. House committee backed legislation Wednesday that would allow convenience stores to set up tables and chairs for customers eating prepackaged food.
Sen. Jerry Tillman’s “biscuit bill” has already cleared the Senate. The Archdale Republican says the measure would help seniors and others who socialize at country stores over microwavable biscuits.
State health rules prevent businesses classified as a food stand, which include country stores, from providing seating. The rules are designed to make sure businesses where customers linger will have an adequate septic system.
“There’s some weird notion that if you sit down, you’ll stay a little longer, you may use the bathroom, and you’ll tax the sewage system,” Tillman told House members.
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The state Division of Public Health initially had voiced concerns about possible sewage backups, but a representative of the agency said Wednesday that the bill “adequately protects public health.”
Since the bill moved to the House, a new provision has been added to allow food carts at large events – defined as facilities with at least 3,000 permanent seats.
“Many people don’t want to stand in line at a baseball game,” Tillman said. “They want to get their hot dog and watch the game.”
And while nearly everyone on the House Commerce Committee voted for the bill, Rep. Brian Brown – a Greenville Republican and restaurant owner – said the rule change for stores makes him “extremely uncomfortable.” He suggested that it could create a slippery slope allowing stores to be more like restaurants without facing the same regulations.
“It’s not just biscuits, folks, and it’s going to go on beyond that,” Brown said. “My question is where do we stop and where do we start to truly regulate?”
Brown approached Tillman after the meeting and the two had a testy exchange in which Brown said the senator was “disrespectful” toward his concerns.
Patrick Gannon of the N.C. Insider contributed to this report.