San Francisco Restaurants Deal with Health Care Surcharge Numbers

San Francisco officials allege that some top SF restaurants are pocketing money meant for employees' health care

San Francisco restaurants have long charged a $1 "Healthy S.F. Surcharge" to help cover the health care of their employees, but San Francsico city attorney Dennis Herrera announced that he plans to go after at least 50 restaurants for charging extra fees and pocketing the money.

According to a list compiled by Herrera, some of city's top restaurants are guilty of the extra cash grab, and while Herrera will not list which restaurants he is going after, the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement has released a list of 93 restaurants which have come under scrutiny in an audit.

On that list includes Michael Mina's Mina Group, which showed that while the group collected $539,806 in fees, the company spent a reported $211,809. Similarly, Wayfare LP of Wayfare Tavern took in $303,207 but spent $68,018. Also on the list: Squat & Gobble Café, The Cheesecake Factory, Burger Bar, Gitane, and Flour + Water.

Some say, however, that the list has been blown out of proportion; Rob Black of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association told ABC 7 that this was just a reporting error. The information provided for the audits were based on forms the restaurants filled out, he said, arguing that the restaurants probably failed to report all their healthcare costs on accident.

Both Wayfare Tavern and Mina Group have responded to the list. Tony Marcell, manager and partner at Wayfare Tavern, says that the surcharges are only used for employees' health care, and the remainder is still set aside for health needs. "Wayfare Tavern has consistently complied with the Health Care Security Ordinance and is committed to our employees and their health care needs," Marcell told the SF Chronicle. 

The Mina Group also maintains that the funds are not misappropriated, and that all funds are available to employees. "This surcharge is segregated in a cash reserve available for our employees to use towards health benefits," their statement says. Employees rollover benefits at the end of the year, and the unused funds are held in reserve for employee use.

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