The City Council passed a COVID-19 Recovery Charge on September 16th that will allow restaurants to tack on a 10% fee to customer’s bills. The charge is not a service charge, and goes to the restaurant directly rather than the server.
The bill, sponsored by Council Member Joe Borelli, requires that restaurants clearly disclose the charge on the menu and the bill itself.
The Committee for Consumer Affairs passed the measure with six affirmative and one negative votes, and the Council passed the bill 46-2.
Park Slope Council Member Brad Lander was one of the two “nays,” and said that he didn’t feel as though the bill would help in the way it was intended.
“I’m desperate to do everything we can to support our restaurants, and I’m proposing a lot of policies ways to do it, but I don’t feel comfortable adding a 10% surcharge to the one section of our economy in which workers are still paid a sub-minimum wage of ten dollars an hour plus tips without doing something that either guarantees we raise their minimum wage, or that this surcharge is shared with workers,” Lander said during the meeting, further citing concerns that the measure would lead to customers tipping less.
“Our restaurants are hurting but our restaurant workers are the ones who can’t pay their rent at home or put food on their own tables,” he added, saying that he’d love to see the bill adjusted to ensure their wages.
Jonathan Bayer, the co-owner of SkyIce Thai on Park Slope’s 5th Avenue, says that they won’t be implementing the charge.
“Our first thought was that we know everybody’s hurting, so why would I pass on an additional cost? I’m thankful that people are coming in and ordering,” Bayer said. “Why make it more expensive for people to dine out?” Even though the cost may be just a few dollars per order, Bayer and his wife and co-owner, Sutheera Denprapa, feel against the charge on principle.
“It’s bodies of government at the higher level that should be supporting us more, and not passing whatever attempts to recoup massive losses over the last six months onto our loyal customers,” Bayer said.
The bill is expected to be signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose spokesperson Mitch Schwartz told The Post that “The mayor supports the bill and he’ll be proud to sign it.”
Andrew Rigie, the director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said in a statement that the group supports the measure wholeheartedly.
“The passage of the COVID-19 Recovery Bill will help struggling restaurants generate additional revenue to help pay for expenses like PPE for their employees, outdoor dining setups, rent, labor and other expenses to give them a fighting chance of survival. We commend the City Council for passing this important temporary legislation and urge Mayor de Blasio to sign it into law immediately,” Rigie said.
Restaurants will be permitted to add the charge for 90 days after the start of full-capacity indoor dining. Indoor dining will return at 25% capacity at the end of this month. Chain restaurants with five or more locations will not be included in the bill.
Council Member Kalman Yeger, who voted “aye”, said that he supported the bill since many restaurants are not able to utilize outdoor dining.
“This city has failed them, the state has failed them, because we kept them shut for so long,” Yeger said, adding that this charge was a way to show patrons that menu prices were not being raised.
“[This says] stand with us, come out, eat in our local restaurants, keep us in business,” Yeger added.