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New York City Council Mulling Bill That Would Allow Restaurant Surcharges To Continue After Pandemic Ends

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- During the pandemic you may have noticed an extra service fee added on to your restaurant bill.

Those surcharges could be here to stay, CBS2's Nick Caloway reported Tuesday.

Those extra fees were temporarily allowed by the city last year to help businesses cover extra costs during the pandemic. They've gotten mixed reviews from customers.

"I think the surcharges are kind of ridiculous, because, I mean, people have been out of work," Harlem resident Tayler Harrison said.

"Like as long as my food is good, it's clean, and the ambiance is nice, like I said, I'm okay with it," Dawn Hurd said.

READ MORENew York City Council Approves Optional 10% Restaurant Surcharge Fee

But some say the surcharges, while well intentioned, ended up hurting workers.

"They said if a consumer came in and they planned to tip 20%, they see a 10% surcharge, they think it's going to workers, and they tip only 10% on top of that," Saru Jayaraman said.


Jayaraman is president of the group One Fair Wage. She said smaller tips and lower wages are forcing people out of the industry altogether.

"It has become a life-threatening situation for tipped workers. That's why thousands of them have left this industry. They're saying the tips are too low, and the harassment and hostility and health risks are too high. It's not worth it anymore," Jayaraman said.

The New York City Council is discussing a bill that would allow surcharges to outlive the pandemic and become permanent.

But only if businesses that use them pay all the employees a full minimum wage -- $15 an hour -- with tips on top.

FLASHBACK: If You've Noticed A COVID-19 Surcharge On A Recent Bill, You're Not Alone

That's something Russell Jackson has been doing for years, and his business hasn't suffered for it.

"You shouldn't have to work 100 hours a week to try to make a living," Jackson said.

Jackson owns Reverence in Harlem. He said he knows his prices are a little higher, and he's okay with that.

"I'm a 40-year professional. I kind of know what I'm doing. Let me do my job, pay a fair and reasonable price for it. You're going to walk away so much richer for the experience," Jackson said.

On Tuesday, the NYC Hospitality Alliance voiced opposition to requiring a full minimum wage for businesses using the surcharge.

It said it could cause some tipped workers to make less money.

So far, there has been no vote by the city council on that.

Workers advocates are also asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to make sure tipped workers get a full minimum wage statewide.

CBS2's Nick Caloway contributed to this report

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