Gainesville is issuing violation warnings for plastic straws


The City of Gainesville has begun giving warnings to businesses that provide plastic straws or stirrers to their customers. The notices have “VIOLATION WARNING” in red and say, “You are hereby notified that an inspection of the above referenced property revealed the following item(s) in violation of these Sections of the City of Gainesville Solid Waste Code of Ordinances,” followed by a list of possible violations. On most of the notices, the box marked “Other” is checked, followed by “Ordinance 180678. See letter.” 

The first notices that we received in response to a public records request were dated October 30; by November 14, the inspectors had a stamp available:

Ordinance 180678 was passed on August 15, 2019, and says, in part, “Beverage providers shall not sell, use, offer for sale or use, or provide to any person a single-use plastic straw or single-use plastic stirrer.”  There are exceptions for pre-packaged beverages with included straws that are prepared and packaged outside the City, boxes of straws/stirrers that are offered for retail sale and are packaged outside the City, medical or dental facilities, hospitals, nursing homes or assisted living facilities, and “any disabled person that requires or relies on same to consume beverages and/or food supplements.”

The ordinance went into effect immediately but will not be enforced until January 2, 2020. The warnings have surprised restaurant managers and owners, who, if they were aware of the law at all, didn’t think they would be visited by City inspectors before January. Restaurant managers didn’t want to comment to us on the record, but one manager said she was frustrated that the first she’d heard about the ordinance was the violation warning.

So far, 226 warnings have been issued to restaurants, coffee shops, gas stations, convenience stores, movie theaters, grocery stores, the American Legion, VFW Post 2811, and even a veterinary practice. Curiously, one notice (which, like the others, said there was a violation) had the notation “has no straws or stirrers.” They have been issued all over the city to date, with the notable exception of the midtown area.

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