The NYC Hospitality Alliance tweeted the following message at Errol Louis, the host of NY1’s Inside City Hall, during his weekly interview with Mayor de Blasio. He asked the Mayor our question about allowing restaurants the option of using a clearly disclosed surcharge on menus. We were astonished by the Mayor’s response.
“@errollouis please ask the Mayor about the nearly 7 foot tall letter sent to him at City Hall last week. It was signed/supported by hundreds of restaurateurs urging him to let them use a surcharge, which is allowed everywhere else in NYS and the country.”
Mayor de Blasio: “Look, first, I only heard about this a few days ago, so we have to assess it.” [referring to the surcharge issue]
The Truth: The restaurant industry has been urging Mayor de Blasio for two years to allow restaurants the option of using a clearly disclosed surcharge on menus. There’s been meetings at City Hall, hundreds of restaurateurs contacted the Mayor and his administration about the issue, op-eds published, press coverage and his administration issued public statements.
Mayor de Blasio: “Second, I’m not sure of the point, since as you say, it all comes out the same, either way. So, I am not sure why this is a necessary or helpful thing.” [referring to the surcharge]
The Truth: The reason restaurateurs want the option of using a surcharge is explained in the letter the mayor is talking about receiving. It’s also been explained in memos and countless meetings with his administration over the past two years.
Mayor de Blasio: “When I received that [the letter], I turned to my folks and I said, hey this begs an interesting question, they say the restaurant industry’s having trouble, what are the facts? So, they went and looked at restaurant permits…and they’ve gone up in the last year…so I’m not sure this industry is struggling.”
The Truth: According to the Mayor’s Department of Health, which issues the restaurant permits he referenced, the number of permits decreased between April 2017 and April 2018. Between 2010 – 2015 annual employment growth in the city’s restaurant industry averaged 6.5% and has since dropped to less than 2%. During a similar time period, the growth in liquor licenses at full service city restaurants plummeted 20%. Finally, if you speak with most restaurateurs they’ll tell you all about their struggles.
The Next Steps:
Mayor de Blasio’s response to the straight forward question is troubling. The NYC Hospitality Alliance followed up right away. The fact is that some restaurants simply want the option of using a clearly disclosed surcharge, which is allowed everywhere else in New York State and around the country, just not in New York City. We will continue to urge the Mayor and the City Council to allow this practice to help restaurants adapt to the ever changing and expensive business climate.
The NYC Hospitality Alliance appeared in more than a dozen news stories about the surcharge after the big letter was delivered to City Hall by member Jon Bloostein of Heartland Brewery. You can learn more about the issue by visiting our website at www.theNYCalliance.org.