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LA restaurants adding surcharge for health insurance

At Republique in L.A., the bill comes with an added charge to pay for health insurance for all its employees.
February 20, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
At the new high-end restaurant Republique in Los Angeles, the bill comes with an added charge to pay for health insurance for all its employees.

The owners at the restaurant on La Brea Avenue say they believe a 3-percent surcharge is fair.

"We're not cheating anyone (or) take anything away. We're trying to make a great staff, a great team. I'm trying to provide great jobs," said restaurant owner and chef Walter Manzke.

Manzke says the charge has nothing to do with Obamacare mandates, but everything to do with income equality. Like many restaurants, tips at Republique are divided among waiters and busboys, but under California law, they cannot be shared with so-called invisible employees like cooks and food preppers.

"This 3 percent is a little bit to give to the back of the house," Manzke said.

Most customers, like Miracle Mile resident Elaine McLemore, support the surcharge.

"It supports full-time healthcare for the employees, and that's something that I really want to support as a customer," McLemore said.

But not everyone agrees with the concept, especially if the surcharge becomes a practice across the board at all levels of restaurants like in San Francisco.

"Your tip is something that is coming from the heart and is very generous," said Kaitlin Vonderhaar of Cincinnati. "To add that on to (the bill) is not something that is very welcoming and appropriate for everybody."

Republique encourages diners to deduct the charge from their gratuity, or they say you can ask to have it removed all together.

Republique is not the only restaurant in Los Angeles to charge a healthcare surcharge, but the question many are asking is, how many more will be following suit?


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