Starting this weekend, guests at restaurants and bars in New York City will be able to add an extra charge to their final bill.
City restaurants are now allowed to charge a COVID-19 recovery fee for indoor or outdoor dining – takeaway orders and deliveries are excluded. The participating restaurants must clearly indicate additional costs on their menus.
Last month, the NYC Council approved a bill adding a 10 percent “COVID-19 recovery fee” to a customer’s total bill. Councilor Joseph C. Borelli, who introduced the bill, said restaurants in the city have suffered significantly from the coronavirus pandemic and need additional help getting their businesses back on track.
“Those costs will be reduced 90 days after the restaurant’s capacity has run out. When they raise the price of their meals there is no telling whether or not they’ll keep the price up,” Borelli said. “We need these companies to stay in business. If they’re not in business, these hundreds of thousands of people will not have jobs.”
It is designed to direct extra cash into restaurants suffering from pandemic restrictions. However, some owners and servers fear the supplement could result in smaller tabs and tips for eating. Gaby Acevedo from News 4 reports.
The Staten Island Republican said he believed the extra money could be a lifeline to help restaurant staff through the pandemic.
“Use it to add an allowance for kitchen staff, to add an allowance for health premiums or paid sickness allowance for employees,” suggested Borelli.
According to the law, only small restaurants can apply the surcharge, which must be clearly stated on the restaurant’s invoice. Handcarts, stands, vehicles, or large chains are not included in the bill.
In a statement, a workers rights group rejected the bill, stating that the proposed surcharge without a guarantee of a minimum wage for workers could harm workers.
“If the city council allowed employers to add an allowance without those employers paying their workers a full minimum wage, the allowance would limit the workers’ already discounted customer tips without guaranteeing that tipped restaurant workers would receive the bare minimum wage.” Fair Wage President Saru Jayaraman said.
Even some restaurant owners wonder if it really helps them to relax when customers ask for more to eat – which some hesitate anyway.
“I think they are chasing people away from restaurants instead of luring them and dragging them to restaurants to create more business,” said Scott Giunta, owner of Arturos Restaurant in Greenwich Village. “(Customers) don’t take alcohol, they don’t take dessert. They’ll just take the basics and go home.”
Carol Giunta, manager of the restaurant, said the bill could work against servers as waiters could potentially see their tips drop on a smaller bill for dinner.
“Maybe customers think, ‘You get 10 percent, that’s part of the waiter’s service tip,” she said.
Some still see the potential benefits.
“I’m not sure if it will help, but I think it’s a step in the right direction because without the funding they could go out of business in the long run,” said Spencer Kosterinsky, a customer at the restaurant. “As long as I knew about it beforehand. If I saw it afterwards without knowing it, it would annoy me a little.”