Obamacare Fees Added to Restaurant Bills in Florida

Friday, 28 Feb 2014 12:04 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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A restaurant chain in Florida is adding a surcharge on its bills to help pay for its employee health insurance costs under Obamacare.

Diners at eight Gator's Dockside eateries, which estimates that Obamacare will cost the chain $500,000 a year, are being asked to pay an extra 1 percent Affordable Care Act charge on their checks, according to CNN.

The surcharge comes just two weeks after an upscale restaurant in California started billing their customers an extra 3 percent on their tabs to help pay for their workers' healthcare benefits.

At Gator's, there are signs on the door and at tables informing diners of the extra fee, which is listed separately as "ACA Surchar."

The warning notices say: "The costs associated with ACA compliance could ultimately close our doors. Instead of raising prices on our products to generate the additional revenue needed to cover the costs of ACA compliance, certain Gator's Dockside locations have implemented a 1% surcharge on all food and beverage purchases only."

The company, which employs 500 people, with half of them working full-time, currently covers only health benefits for managers. But under the Obamacare mandate the restaurant will have to offer coverage to all its permanent staff.

The new healthcare law requires businesses with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance to their employees or face a fine. The mandate was recently delayed by President Barack Obama until 2016.

Sandra Clark, the director of operations for the restaurant, told CNN the surcharge will help prevent the chain from laying off workers to afford the extra health benefits. "I'm just trying to keep the employees I have that I've worked hard to train," she said.

Clark estimated that $160,000 would be raised through the 1 percent increase, which she said would not even come close to recouping the amount it must shell out each year for the company's healthcare costs.

Clark told News965.com: "We're definitely doing it to stay afloat. It's not political. The president may have bought this agenda to the forefront. It's law now, and what's law made it real for us."

Although the Gator Group's employees will only begin to receive health insurance in December, the company has already started tacking on the surcharge because of the compliance costs it faces under the Obamacare mandate, according to CNN.

Clark maintained that the restaurant had received positive feedback from its customers, but not everyone is accepting the extra cost of their meals. "I don't agree with it," said diner Brian Earwood. "I don't."

And customer Mauri Carver said, "I don't think it's the right thing to do because you're penalizing us. But at the same time you have to pay employees and take care of them as well, and I totally understand that."

CNN says the eight restaurants are in central Florida and Jacksonville, while 13 other Gator's Dockside eateries, which are run by another company and its franchisees, are not adding a surcharge.

Earlier this month in Los Angeles, the popular French bistro Republique also added a surcharge to help cover health insurance costs for its employees under Obamacare.

The restaurant, which has 80 workers, placed a notice to its customers on the bottom of its menu, saying, "A 3% charge will be added to each guest check to ensure health & medical benefits for our entire staff. Please adjust your gratuity accordingly and thank you."

Bill Chait, one of the restaurant's managers, said that if patrons complained about the charge, he advised them to just subtract it from the waiter's tip.


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