Fed-up restaurateurs mull shutdown 

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association represents nearly half of San Francisco’s 2,000 full-service dining establishments and is generally recognized as a calm, reasonable business voice. That is why the GGRA’s 800 members must be considered desperate indeed if their last meeting began seriously considering the idea of a one-day citywide restaurant shutdown.

The restaurateurs say that because of their traditionally tight margins, they are reeling from this year’s costly new trio of city mandates. This unprecedented triple whammy consists of a voter-approved San Francisco minimum hourly wage of $9.14, another voter initiative requiring employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work, and the new health care ordinance requiring businesses with 20 or more employees to pay as much as $1.60 per hour toward employee health care.

The popular Mission district restaurant Foreign Cinema reportedly would lose two-thirds of its annual profits by being forced to pay an additional $200,000 to comply with the sick leave and health plan laws alone.

The restaurant association has already filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of San Francisco’s employer health care spending mandate. The lawsuit contends that the ordinance conflicts with the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which avoids a confusing patchwork of local and state laws by setting national standards for private-industry pension and health plans,

A one-day restaurant shutdown could result in a loss of approximately $75,000 in San Francisco tax revenue. Some 20 percent of The City’s $136 million sales taxes last year came from the restaurant industry.

Even worse, the Bay Area’s vital tourism industry could be embarrassed internationally and potentially lose millions in bookings if an impression spread that access was no longer guaranteed for The City’s plethora of outstanding restaurants at all price ranges.

Any one-day closure would likely occur during one of the several high-profile events scheduled here in the next few months. In April, two major national conventions will overlap and bring more than 17,000 people to San Francisco. The ever-popular Gay Pride weekend arrives in June and the All-Star Baseball Game will take place at AT&T Park in July.

It is easy enough to persuade voters to approve benefits that seemingly are paid for by other people. But City Hall should have understood that San Francisco’s abundance of intriguing restaurants is one of its biggest visitor attractions, right up there with scenic beauty and a spirited lifestyle.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Board of Supervisors should also have realized that restaurants operate on an unusually tight profit margin and are one of the least likely industries to survive dramatic cost increases. Some means must be found to deliver relief to city restaurants, and the sooner the better.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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