New York City restaurant group wants surcharge to make up for wage hikes

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- With weather finally warming up, you certainly can't blame people for wanting to eat outside. But dining in New York City could soon cost you a little bit more, if one restaurant group gets its way.

The New York City Hospitality Alliance said mandated wage increases in recent years have badly hurt the industry's bottom line, and now, Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering boosting the minimum wage for tipped employees from $8.65 to $15 per hour, the same rate as the regular minimum wage starting next year.

The group wants the city to give all restaurants the option of adding a surcharge to customers' bills, up to 5 percent, as a way of generating more revenue. Under current city law, such surcharges are not allowed. But some owners say they need the extra money just to survive.

The alliance, which represents about 100 restaurateurs, says it has been asking for the surcharge option for 2 years but has gotten no decision from City Hall. The city's Department of Consumer Affairs, which regulates restaurants, issued a statement, saying, "We recognize that hospitality is a vital industry in New York City. We're aware the proposal and haven't taken a position on the measure."

Other states already have these surcharges in place, but critics say New York is one of the few places -- maybe the only place -- in the entire country that currently doesn't allow such a fee.

Public hearings on minimum wage began last week and will continue. The restaurateurs don't want to just boost menu prices, because of fear of sticker shock.

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