Manhattan Law Firm Brings Team Approach To Restaurant Practice

Are you struggling with finance or real estate issues, wage or discrimination or sick leave, or employee rights? Even serving pregnant women alcohol?

On employment alone, the way the country now looks at it is changing. “Everybody talks about the gig economy,” said Richard Romeo of the Manhattan law firm, Salon
Marrow. “There’s been a big swing in the country away from what would be considered traditional employee rights. And now there’s been a pendulum going the other way, trying to enforce and maybe even over-enforce certain employee rights.”

It can be a dizzying challenge for the restaurant and hospitality industry but a law firm with the unique expertise of Salon Marrow can help the professional operator sort it all out.

And don’t worry that you’re going to get legal advice from some ivory tower. “Many legal firms dispense advice from on high but Salon
Marrow feels it’s really a bit more from the ground-up. We find that our clients have as much to teach us as we have to teach them,” Romeo maintained.

He pointed out that the firm typically will draw in people depending upon the phase in the life of the business and the nature of the services needed. “Obviously, you’re not having the entire team work on everything at all times. But we assemble lawyers so that a financing issue can be dealt with, a leasing issue can be dealt with, anything a restaurant might need.”

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In the restaurant business, unlike others, there are public health initiatives as well that might place a burden on some operations. “And there is always, especially in the New York area, price compression and rising real estate costs, which especially affects restaurants because of their sometimes low margins,” Romeo warned.

Restaurants can really get tripped up on the employment side. “The wage and hour issue has become a focus of the Department of Labor, in terms of minimum wage, paying the overtime, the tip credit, and then the record-keeping that restaurants must maintain as part of their obligation. All this places a tremendous burden on a small business,” he asserted.

Even something as simple as not serving alcohol to pregnant women in New York City has taken on a whole new complexity. “A new guidance went into effect in May,” Romeo stated. “Now restaurants have to serve her because not to is discrimination. Talk about a rock and a hard place. This is the kind of thing that clients worry about. It’s a real world issue.”

Liability is always a big concern when you’re serving alcohol but here’s where training comes in. “The right kind of training can mitigate liability under the law. Restaurants should also consider getting the appropriate liquor liability insurance,” Romeo advised. “There’s separate insurance for that.”

Immigration can be another challenge. “It’s not simple but it is straightforward,” he said. “We’ve got an obligation to collect certain documents, to get a completed W9, to get the documentation that is required and thereby comply with the law. You just want to make sure that if you’re audited, you’ve got your separate files as required by law, you’ve got your W9s, you’ve got your back documentation, and then you should be good to go.”

Sometimes restaurants need to be pro-active. “Sometimes it’s a question of experience and how long in business and people are in the world trying to put something together, and so they don’t really feel they have the time to address things,” he explained. “As businesses mature, though, they tend to gravitate more toward longer-term planning. We always try to encourage our clients to look around the corner, and be prepared, to be in the best position to defend yourself from the inevitable claim from a guest. Often the reason they don’t is because they feel too busy and they haven’t stopped long enough to let us teach them.

“They’re young in the business and don’t necessarily see the value of it. But once most clients are presented with a relatively straightforward way of dealing with something, they do it and then they come to recognize the value of it, but it’s a process.”

Lawyers have to educate their clients. “Restaurants need to look to their legal team to keep them apprised of everything. The ins and outs of wage and hour laws are not something that a guy who’s running a restaurant should necessarily be expected to know on his own or have picked up anywhere before. So, it’s our job, and we do regard it as our job, to educate our client and make them aware of pitfalls and give them tools to make the job of compliance easier, something that can be woven into the business, the culture.”

A lot of things can be wake-up calls, Romeo articulated. “A lot of things will demonstrate to clients, hey, the stuff that the lawyers have been saying kind of makes sense.”

The attorneys are available to discuss these and other legal issues applicable to your business. For more information, please contact:

Richard P. Romeo
646- 843-1907 • rromeo@salonmarrow.com

Salvatore G. Gangemi
646- 843-1929 • sgangemi@salonmarrow.com

John Paul Fulco
646- 843-1917 • jfulco@salonmarrow.com