Eating out in the Big Apple could soon cost diners 10 percent more — but local legislators who support the temporary surcharge say its crucial to keeping restaurants in business during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This bill fundamentally is about saving the restaurant industry,” said Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) who sponsored the legislation that’s scheduled for a vote Wednesday.
“We’re trying to give restaurants the option of adding a surcharge to let their customers know they need to raise a little bit more money to make their ends meet,” Borelli said, noting that more and more eateries are closing down daily because they can’t afford to operate under coronavirus-related restrictions.
“Outdoor dining and limited capacity indoor dining are helpful, but not enough at this time — and not going to enough when the cold weather comes,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said at a press conference Wednesday.
“The goal of the fee is to help restaurants have enough income to cover their costs,” Johnson said.
The optional 10-percent fee would be permitted until 90 days after the reinstatement of full indoor dining. City restaurants will be able to allow indoor dining at 25 percent capacity on Sept. 30 with possible expansion to 50 percent a month later.
Restaurants are currently prohibited by a decades-old city law
Andrew Rigie of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, told The Post he fully backs the bill on behalf of restaurant owners.
“The passage of the COVID recovery bill will help struggling restaurants generate additional revenue to help pay for expenses like PPE for their employees, outdoor dining setups, rent, labor and other expenses to give them a fighting chance of survival,” Rigie said.
The bill passed the council’s consumer affairs committee Wednesday morning with a 6-to-1 vote.
The only “No” vote came from Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) who said it’s unfair to low wage restaurant workers who may get smaller tips because of the surcharge.
One Fair Wage, a national group representing service industry workers, echoed Lander’s concerns saying it would hurt waiters whose tips are already down by over half.
But Councilman Kalman Yeger (D-Brooklyn) said the surcharge is “literally the gap to whether or not restaurants are going to be able to survive in this city or not.”
“I think were doing for workers today, we’re keeping their jobs alive,” Yeger said, adding that the temporary surcharge is preferable to restaurants raising their menu prices.
Mayor de Blasio enthusiastically endorsed the bill, though his reps could not say when he would sign it into law.
“The mayor supports the bill and he’ll be proud to sign it. This is an unprecedented emergency, and we’ll do everything we can to support the industry that employs thousands of New Yorkers and makes us the greatest city in the world,” mayoral spokesman Mitch Schwartz told The Post.