Ag Commissioner Sid Miller said 'BBQ Bill' could allow businesses to cheat customers

Iron Works Barbecue is a family-owned business that's been a downtown Austin staple for nearly 39 years.
General manager Aaron Morris said using their scale, they weigh brisket, sausage and turkey and sell it by the pound.  And he said they would never cheat a customer.

"Some people that are our regulars or look a little hungry or just nice people might get a little bit more but we would never be caught shorting anybody!  You just can't do it," Morris said.

Ag Commissioner Sid Miller said the scales at barbecue joints across Texas are regulated by his office.

"Texas Department of Agriculture, we're the consumer protection agency for the state so anything that's sold by weight or volume, we regulate that -- gas pumps, gold and silver buyers," Miller said.  

Miller is pretty disgusted by HB 2029, headed for Governor Abbott's desk.  The Ag Commissioner said the bill would exempt restaurants, including barbecue restaurants, from having their scales regulated and inspected.

"In other words, they could say they're selling you 5 lbs. worth of brisket and sell you 4 and there's no way to hold them to that," Miller said.

Miller said the great majority of the state's barbecue places register and do business above board.

"I would be suspicious of anybody that did not want to comply with the law and wanted a special carve-out so they could hide the scales out of sight from the customers," Miller said.

And registration is not expensive according to Miller.

"It's $35 a year and you know that's 2 lbs. of brisket basically.  In a year about a million dollars will be sold off of one of those scales by my calculations so it's an inconsequential amount it's just the fact that they don't want to be held accountable and they would like to be able to cheat the customer as long as they like," Miller said.

For restaurant owners like Morris, he's hoping the bill becomes law because it's one less expense especially with the rising costs of doing business in downtown Austin.

"A lot of people talk about the high price of BBQ and this is just one thing that contributes to that cost so any sort of relief we can get from the state agencies would be great," Morris said.

As far as customers getting shorted on meat at Iron Works, Morris said customers would never allow that to happen.

"You can't short people.  And every BBQ place knows that.  It's extremely competitive," Morris said.  "We know what we're doing and anybody who is shorting people on weights and measures is not going to be in business for long."