Palm Springs restaurant adds tax to cover employee healthcare cost

Olivia Sandusky

A tax on a local restaurant bill sparks controversy in Palm Springs.

Stout Burgers and Beers charges customers 3.5 percent to cover the cost of their staff’s healthcare, and the owner says it’s necessary.

“This is a way for us to say hey, we are concerned about you, we want you to think about this as a profession and we want to give back and provide the most fundamental thing that we could which is healthcare,” said Charles Lew, owner of Stout.

The tax has been seen in San Francisco and some Los Angeles restaurants.

Lew says the charge is a way to ensure that all employees receive medical benefits, especially during critical times like the pandemic.

“If we didn’t know before, we’re truly acutely aware of how important health care is,” said Lew.

While the tax is becoming more common, other valley restaurant owners say they weren’t aware of it, and don’t plan to add it to their bill.

“We would just absorb the cost or find a creative way to increase revenue, or last resort you redesign your menu or redesign what you’re serving,” said Ray Rodriguez, the owner of Casuelas Cafe.

And while some social media users support the fee, saying they’d gladly pay it, a few Palm Springs visitors weren’t in favor of the new addition.

“The restaurants have to make the income some way to pay for that, but I’m not so sure it should be passed directly onto the customer,” said Harlin Highsmith.

Charles says he understands customers may be surprised to see the charge, but he feels it’s worth it.

“It’s a fundamental issue that needs to be adressed, and if we can address that as owners and operators of restaurants then we will deal with the negative implications that come along with it,” said Lew.

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