AirTalk for February 14, 2014

LA restaurateur adds health care surcharge to customer bills (Poll)

Republique staff

Ben Bergman/KPCC

From left to right: Taylor Parsons, Republique Beverage Director and Sommelier , Christian Philippo, General Manager, Walter Manzke, Chef, Margarita Manzke, Chef, and Bill Chait, Managing Partner.

inside Republique

Ben Bergman/KPCC

The two-story space, once the place where Charlie Chaplin kept an office, took a year to complete. Most recently, it was home to Campanile, which was founded in 1989 by Mark Peel and his then-wife Nancy Silverton.

Republique 4

Ben Bergman/KPCC

All of Republique’s 80-plus workers work fulltime and receive healthcare, right down to the dishwashers and the bakers.

outside republique

Ben Bergman/KPCC

Since opening less than three months ago in Hancock Park, the French-inspired bistro and bakery, Republique has been packed every night. It also serves pastries and coffee in the morning.

A hot new French restaurant in Hancock Park serves up rich dishes, delicate pastries and a surprise when the bill comes around. Republique servers explain to customers that a 3% surcharge called the “Healthy LA” tax pays for workers’ health care.

RELATED: Healthcare surcharge riles customers at top LA eatery

Managing partner Bill Chait told KPCC’s Ben Bergman, “We knew that we wanted to offer the opportunity to get everybody into the health insurance pool....The problem is the structure for health care really makes it very difficult to insure part-time people... [W]e concluded that the most transparent and effective way to do it was to have a charge that basically was illuminated to the guest as opposed to one that is buried inside of the cost of the food.”

Under Obamacare, businesses like Republique with more than 50 full-time employees have to offer affordable health care benefits or pay fines. (This week, that mandate was delayed again, to 2016.)

However, Taylor Parsons, Republique’s sommelier and beverage director, says he doesn’t see the surcharge as “political at all; it’s a pragmatic decision.”

Taylor continues, “I don't even think about it in the context of health care, I just think about it in the context of having worked in restaurants for the better part of a decade and seeing how broken the existing system is."

Still, some customers perceive it as political and others as just too much information. What do you think? Do you see it as political? Do consumers want to know about a business’ overhead? If you’re a business owner, how much information do you share with your patrons about the cost of doing business?


Ben Bergman, KPCC Business Reporter


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