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Jan 24, 2010 03:27 PM

Bar Snacks Barred? Or is it just a ploy to get us to order food?

I was in a Manhattan saloon yesterday and commented that the bowls of pretzels and peanuts that were always present were now absent, and the bartender said they were no longer allowed to have them out. He gave the impression that this was via the Board of Health, but I don't know if I buy that. Anyone have any actual information about this? I searched online but didn't come up with anything solid.

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  1. My guess is that communal bowls would be a no no in the eyes of the DOH but if a fresh bowl of snacks was poured for each new customer then this would most likely acceptable. First pouring new snacks into a clean bowl as you sit at the bar and then making sure I bussed that bowl the minute you left so that another customer didn't eat from your bowl would just be too great a hassle for your average bar.

    1. If this is true (and I hope it's not!), it is a brand-spanking-new rule. Care to comment on where you were denied your rightful bowl o' snacks? I will be very sad if I can no longer enjoy free Japanese rice crackers and cheddar goldfish.

      10 Replies
      1. re: small h

        with swine flum etc. going around, makes total sense. Even if they were out, my hands would be no where near it.

        1. re: small h

          It was at the Oyster Bar at Grand Central. No more snacks.

          1. re: Up With Olives

            My strong suspicion is that this is a one off situation. If there was a new citywide ban this is the type of thing that Eater would pick up in a heartbeat.

            1. re: Bob Martinez

              I don't think it's a ban per se but I checked the DOH website the other day and under the category of Food Protection section 4J "Unprotected food re-served" is a violation. So unless the bar bussed any uneaten snack so to ensure no customer ate from a bowl eaten from a previous customer they would be in violation. This is just too hard to keep track of so I think most bars would just refrain from leaving snacks on the bar.

              1. re: KTinNYC

                I'll bet you that rule has been effect for years. I'm going to start keeping track of how many bars serve snacks. This may require lots of research. :-)

                1. re: Bob Martinez

                  I know it's been a rule that's been effect for years but the DOH has been citing establishments for violations they never did in the past. For example, my friend was cited for not wearing a hat while bartending. Technically, when you make drink you are making food so you need to have your head covered.

                  Once you catch a fine and points for "re-serving food" you'll probably not do it again.

                  1. re: KTinNYC

                    After a bit of searching, I see there's a violation code 04J relating to re-serving unprotected food, but I have been unable to find any further explanation.

                    Communal bar snack bowls remain very common in the city, especially at hotel bars and around midtown generally. I think I need to see more evidence before I believe there's a systematic clampdown going on.

                    1. re: Wilfrid

                      I don't think it's a systematic clampdown at all but it's up to the health inspector to cite you on the violation so if she decides to cite you she can. This results in points and a fine. You can then either pay the fine or take the time out of your day to go down to court and show them you've rectified the situation and hope they reduce or eliminate the fine and the points. If you've been cited once you might be hesitant to serve the snacks again.

                      With the economy being what it is I wouldn't be surprised if inspectors were told to be more vigilant for violations that results in more revenue for the city. A ticket blitz of sorts.

                      1. re: Rmis32

                        I see we both enjoy a little magical thinking now & then! And I can offer further (spurious) comfort to the nervous: If the mix contains wasabi peas, you'll be fine, since horseradish has antibiotic qualities.

              2. re: Up With Olives

                It seems a million years ago but once upon a time the Oyster Bar had little bowls of crackers for your chowder--not little packets, but open bowls of crackers with a little spoon. then the Health Conscious got them on that.

            2. The Mayor's assault on salt in disguise.

              1. Slightly off topic, but the food police strike again.
                "Things Get Messy When Bartenders Crack an Egg"
                For some, Pegu Club’s violation was a sign that Big Brother was closing in.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Rmis32

                  If you read the article, you'll see that this is not "the food police" at all, but one inspector filing (what seems like) an inaccurate and/or out of scope report. It's not illegal to serve raw eggs, as the article makes quite clear:

                  < But Elliott S. Marcus, an associate health commissioner, seemed nonplussed by the fuss. The use of raw eggs is not illegal in the city, he said, and there is no cocktail crackdown. City regulations say “shell eggs or foods containing shell eggs” must be heated to 145 degrees or greater for 15 seconds, “unless an individual consumer requests” a preparation with raw egg. Even when customers order hollandaise sauce, “the server has to say this dish has a raw egg in it,” Mr. Marcus said. “The bartender has to make a positive, affirmative statement” if there is raw egg in a cocktail, Mr. Marcus said. “We think, if it rises to the level of risk, then you have to let the buyer beware. Although, he said, if a customer orders from a menu that identifies raw egg in a dish or drink, that can serve as notification.>

                  1. re: Rmis32

                    I read this article earlier and my initial reaction was the same as yours but upon more reflection I think this is a non issue. As the the associate health commissioner states, as long as the customer knows that there is a raw egg in the drink or is informed it is fine to serve raw eggs.

                    BTW, big shout out to my friend Cervantes who is pictured in the article!