NYC Restaurants Get Calorie-Posting Reprieve; Georgia Preempts Attempts
In what's fast becoming an ongoing soap opera, New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has given chain restaurants a break, at least for the moment. The department now says it won't enforce a new ordinance requiring chains to post calorie counts on menu boards until April 15. That's a two-week reprieve.
The health department announced it's waiting for a judge to rule in a suit filed by the New York State Restaurant Association in February challenging the ordinance. That ruling, originally promised by the court to be made before April 1, now is expected some time mid-month.
Meanwhile, Georgia is putting the kibosh on the calorie-posting idea from the get-go. A bill just passed in the state assembly prevents local jurisdictions in Georgia from enacting legislation like that enacted in New York and King County, Wash.
Ron Wolf, head of the Georgia Restaurant Association, said it's "nearly impossible" for restaurants, especially those that aren't part of a large chain, to provide accurate nutrition information on menu boards. Add a pickle or change the cut of meat, he said, and the posted information is rendered inaccurate.
Bay Area Eateries Bill Customers For New Healthcare Costs
Restaurant ops in San Francisco have had enough. After a minimum-wage hike, a new law requiring them to provide paid sick leave and the new "Healthy San Francisco" universal healthcare coverage, restaurateurs now say they can't afford to stay in business without charging more.
While the new universal healthcare program is still being challenged in court, operators aren't waiting around. Many have started charging either a fee or a percentage surcharge to cover the increased healthcare costs. Fees, such as the "coperto" charged by Delfina owners Craig and Annie Stoll, run around $1.25 to $1.50. Other restaurants are tacking on a surcharge of as much as 3% to 4%. Many, like Delfina, explain the extra charge in a note to customers or on the bill. Some, however, are passing on the higher costs in higher menu prices.
A federal judge will hear arguments on April 17 in the case filed against the city by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.
Connecticut, Alabama Clean-Air Proposals Have Foes Smoking
Connecticut and Alabama recently took steps to extend smoking bans within their borders.
In Connecticut, a declaration by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal appeared to clear the way for the state's general assembly to regulate smoking in tribal casinos. Blumenthal's opinion, if it holds, could set a precedent that other states could follow in regulating smoking on tribal lands.
Blumenthal said the state has a right, "under the state's compacts with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes" to regulate smoking anywhere the state's liquor laws apply. The tribes maintain such a ruling would violate their sovereignty.
In Alabama, a legislator hopes the third time is a charm for a bill she reintroduced in the state assembly's current session. State Sen. Vivian Davis Figures wants to strengthen the clean-air bill the state passed in 2003, which allowed local jurisdictions to let businesses decide whether or not to ban smoking. Most cities that give restaurants the option require them to put separate HVAC in non-smoking sections. The senator's bill would ban smoking in restaurants statewide and bar municipalities from passing local smoking legislation.
Baltimore, Boston, Friendly's Not Friendly To Bad Fat
Yes, more bans of trans fats in restaurantsthis time from Baltimore and Boston and Wilbraham, Mass.-based Friendly Ice Cream Corp.
The first phase of Boston's new law takes effect this September when all foodservice facilities, including restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and hospitals will no longer be allowed to use oils and margarines containing trans fat. Those operators will have a year to stop using products such as baked goods that contain trans fat.
Baltimore's ordinance is more liberal with its timeframe. Operators have until September of 2009 to make the switch.
Friendly's, recently acquired by a unit of Sun Capital Partners, said food items in its 500 units will be free of trans fat by July, but the chain doesn't expect to roll out a trans fat-free frying oil until fall. About 55 stores now use frying oil with no trans fat.