DC plastic straw ban worries bubble tea shop owner

In the months since D.C. began enforcing its ban on plastic straws, many businesses have fallen in line. But one business owner reached out to FOX 5 DC to say as much as he'd like to, he can't.

"This is the whole point of this drink," Jerry He said Friday while holding up a specialty plastic straw inside his Chinatown bubble tea shop, called Sharetea.

Here's the problem: bubble tea typically consists of both tea and toppings -- often times tapioca pearls which are sucked up, along with the liquid, through a plastic straw. He said he cares about the environment and would even be willing to pay a little more money to use a compliant alternative, but he has yet to find one that works for his unique beverage.

Instead, He fears he'll end up serving his drinks with a compliant straw for the liquid and a plastic spoon for the toppings.

"You will not be able to drink the liquid and the topping at the same time. You have to have a spoon," He said. "People probably gonna avoid it because it's not convenient."

FOX 5 DC reached out to DC's Department of Energy and Environment, which enforces the plastic straw ban. Officials there then reached out to Dan Simons, who's both the co-owner of Farmers Restaurant Group as well as a co-founder of the nonprofit business coalition Our Last Straw, which supports the ban.

Simons said he thought He's position was reasonable, adding that maybe bubble tea shops do need an exclusion until a suitable straw alternative is ready to go.

"I reached out to Jerry. I'm gonna meet with him next week, and we're gonna collaborate on a solution," Simons said. "For me that's what a business led coalition is all about. We can advocate, but we're not ideological and blind to the realities of what a business needs."

It's good news for bubble tea lovers in Chinatown and He, who just wants a plastic straw alternative that can handle those toppings.