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Posted: February 20, 2014

High-end restaurant adds Obamacare surcharge to every order

Steve Snodgrass
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Cox Media Group Web Staff

LOS ANGELES —

At Republique restaurant in Los Angeles, you can order trendy sounding dishes such as Butternut Squash Agnolotti and Duck Liver Mousse with Pickled Asian Pear.

Diners at the high-end eatery, about 6 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, likely expect to pay a bit more for the funky fare, but what's been surprising many customers is a 3 percent surcharge added to every bill to cover employee health care costs under the Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Social media and restaurant review sites have been abuzz with the story since it was reported by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez on Tuesday. 

The Times talked to Republique co-owners Bill Chait and Walter Manzke, who is also the chef. They said they knew the charge would drive some customers away, but thought it was necessary to keep all 80 employees at full time.

Under the Affordable Care Act, companies with 50 or more full-time employees will have to provide health insurance to their workers. The owners opted for the surcharge instead of cutting back staff or creating several part-time jobs to get around the law.

According to TV station KTLA, many people voiced complaints about the policy on Yelp.

“We spent $150 for two of us and you want me to pay an extra 3 percent. Because I can afford to eat here then I should be able to afford that fee? Absurd,” one customer wrote.

The restaurant issued a statement to KTLA regarding the surcharge.

“It directly benefits all the staff, kitchen and front of the house. Moreover, it enables us to make all of our staff full time and to provide them with insurance instead of excluding them as they would be if they were part-time employees.”


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