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Last week's kitchen ruling affects more than Berkeley restaurants

Working Lunch: A liberal court's ending of a local ban on gas-powered kitchen equipment was a win for restaurants everywhere.

A green movement that had chefs sweating like a stove-side cold beer was put before one of the country’s most liberal courts last week, with the outcome expected to determine how one city’s restaurant kitchens would operate from now on.

Yet, in a big win for the industry, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District not only killed a Berkeley, Calif. requirement that future restaurant kitchens be 100% electricity-powered, but largely derailed the movement to ban gas equipment elsewhere.

That’s the assessment offered up by veteran industry lobbyists Joe Kefauver and Franklin Coley in this week’s episode of their weekly political podcast, Working Lunch.

“This is a big dang deal,” said Coley, a partner along with Kefauver in the Orlando-based political consulting firm Align Public Strategies. “This puts all the natural-gas ban bills in the county in jeopardy.”

They were referring to last week’s decision on a 2019 Berkeley law that prohibits the kitchens of newly constructed restaurants and homes from being fed natural gas.

The measure technically outlaws the pipes that builders use to connect equipment like ovens, stoves and fryers with a gas source. City officials had bet that the focus on the feeder pipes would avert any conflict with federal energy regulations.

But the court didn’t agree with that assertion and decided for the plaintiff, the California Restaurant Association.

The ruling came as a number of gas bans are being considered in a number of other jurisdictions, including New York.

“I bet the brakes are going to be pumped on all of these,” Kefauver said to his podcast and business partner. “You and I thought this was going to be one of the big things for years, and then in one afternoon, it’s no longer much of anything.”

During the podcast, Kefauver and Coley also look at the difficulties operators are having in buying insurance and what they learned from last week’s Restaurant Leadership Conference.

Download the episode from wherever you get your podcasts.

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