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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Fast-Food Moratorium in South L.A. (Part 2)

For those of you just joining, I highly recommend a visit to Part 1 of this article just to catch up: Fast-Food Moratorium in South L.A. (Part 1)

In this piece, I want to break down the law's language in traditional George Carlin format, pointing out that this law pretty much would ban ALL new restaurants and not just fast-food restaurants - except for a few choice words and I'll explain how any fast-food franchise can easily duck under the law because of them.

Just as a reminder, here what the law considers to be fast-food restaurants:

"any establishment which dispenses food for consumption on or off the premises, and which has the following characteristics: a limited menu, items prepared in advance or prepared or heated quickly, no table orders and food served in disposable wrapping or containers."

Well, let's start at the beginning...

"which dispenses food for consumption on or off the premises": Those are the only two places you CAN consume food! AT the place and NOT AT the place! I mean ANY food location nowadays, no matter how fancy and sit-down or greasy and take-it-and-leave, gives you the option to place an order for take-out. They understand you might not have the time to eat it THERE. Or you may just prefer to eat it NOT THERE, like at HOME. Also, you might as well just say "which dispenses food" - since food is generally dispensed for consumption. That's the general idea of food - that you consume it. I suppose this means a business that dispenses food for you to WEAR would be allowed to move in? So far, this ban applies to ALL FOOD BUSINESSES (except the food-as-clothing industry).

"and which has the following characteristics: a limited menu": ALL MENUS ARE LIMITED! You're not allowed to walk into a Burger King or a P.F. Chang's or a Fogo De Chao and order up a yak salad with ostrich chutney garnish. All menus are finite, limited by the abilities of the chef, the availability of ingredients, and the personal desire of the restaurant. They don't want to include endangered animals for you to eat - that's their prerogative. The McDonald's fry cook isn't skilled enough to POACH your eggs that go on your McMuffin - tough luck, pal. It's illegal to obtain and cook human flesh for consumption - don't expect to see the phone book as an addendum to your table's menu. So far, this ban still applies to ALL FOOD BUSINESSES (except for hypothetical hypno-restaurants that can put patrons in hypnotic trances and convince them they've eaten anything on an unlimited menu while serving them Kraft Mac & Cheese).

"items prepared in advance": Well of course they're prepared in advance - when did you plan on preparing it? In the guy's stomach? All restaurants have to prepare food before they serve it to you. If you wanted to add the stipulation "prepared in advance of ordering", there's still prep work. Any good restaurant has to save time by pre-assembling items, or even marinating meats in anticipation that someone will order it that night, or using bread that has already been baked or pre-mixed dough even. I'm incredibly skeptical that there exists a single restaurant that can make every item on its menu FROM SCRATCH and not until the order is placed and it can still be served fast enough that the customer doesn't leave, possibly mumbling, "if I wanted incredibly slow food made from scratch, I'd be at home with my wife instead of at a fancy restaurant with my mistress..." Fact of the matter is, this ban still applies to ALL FOOD BUSINESSES (unless all they do is raw, uncooked, unprocessed food, and at that point you might as well be foraging in the woods for sustenance and saving yourself $20 per person).

"prepared or heated quickly": I don't think there's much to say about this. If you're not preparing or heating your food at a decent pace, you shouldn't qualify as a business. It's called "the danger zone" and it's a temperature range at which bacteria can grow and multiply and infect your food. The longer food goes from storage to preparation to your mouth, the more likely you are to get sick and sue for food poisoning. ALL FOOD BUSINESSES know that and do those things in a timely fashion. Also, "quickly" is too subjective of a term - any cooking that takes shorter time to cook than "leaving it in the sun, possibly on a metal pan" can be deemed to have been cooked "quickly" by the Amish. This ban still applies to ALL FOOD BUSINESSES (except Brother Jebediah's Sun-Cooked Meat Emporium)

Now, we finally come to "no table orders and food served in disposable wrapping or containers", which technically seem to separate the actual restaurants from the "fast-food joints" that the law is trying to stop from opening new locations. But don't worry, McDonald's and Burger Kings, they're both easy to step around.

"no table orders": Okay, so you have to be able to take orders at a table in order to qualify as a true "restaurant"? Note that the law doesn't even say anyone has to be SITTING at a table. The table area is just the place where all orders have to be taken in order to qualify. Rather, at least ONE order has to be taken from a table to simply NOT fall into the category of "no table orders". So how do you side-step this one?

Put a table over the counters. It doesn't matter if there's one long table placed over the entire counter, or a cheap IKEA table draped right on top of each counter segment with the cash register placed on top and your McJob cashier/waitstaff standing at the "table". You can even place a small table in front of the drive-thru speaker and one in front of the pay window and pick-up window. "Thank you, please drive to the next TABLE." Voila - you're taking table orders and you can move right in with a new location!

"food served in disposable wrapping or containers": Okay, I have to start off with the obvious jab that everything used to serve food is disposable (in the definition that everything is "able to be disposed of"). A restaurant can give you your burger on a plate, but a plate is just as disposable as a paper lining you'd find wrapped around a McDonald's cheeseburger. For the sake of argument, I will admit that one definition of "disposable" means "INTENDED to be disposed of". I guess McDonald's could just print pictures on all wrappers and containers and call them "collectible" and you can complete the set - that would insinuate that they should NOT be disposed of, but rather collected for some reason. You'd think that the real clencher here is that McDonald's food is wrapped or put into containers (while a restaurant will not wrap food it's serving to you), which means it's just fast-food that this clause affects. To be fair, any legit restaurant will let you place a to-go order and all of that food will be in disposable wrapping or containers! It doesn't say that food is ONLY served in disposable wrapping/containers, right? Which means that any restaurant willing to place a to-go order or let you take food home in a doggy-bag is going to be banned. Once more, this clause of the ban would apply to ALL FOOD BUSINESSES (except those snooty enough to deny you eating their food anywhere other than their restaurant).

So really, all it comes down to is whether or not you'll ever take a food order from a table. All other pieces of this "law" boil down to no food businesses at all being allowed to set up shop in South L.A. (other than those wacky/insane exceptions). Any fast-food place would be able to open up shop as long as they stick a table somewhere and let someone order from it, as I've suggested above. Frankly, the law suggests that you must hit ALL of those marks to qualify not being able to open a new location - which means that once you miss the mark on ANY (like taking orders from a table), you've got free reign in South L.A.!

Take that, Los Angeles City Council! Your law is useless and a waste of taxpayer money for all the debate and insanity that must have transpired before you foolishly signed this moratorium into effect.

Don't you agree? Have I missed anything? Can you understand how each piece of this law is vague and moronic? Was my homage to George Carlin acceptable?

Please Digg this article and join me in mocking the L.A. City Council!

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