New York restaurants are about to get a COVID surcharge
New Yorkers love eating out, but they’re starting to gripe about a coronavirus surcharge that can add up to 10 percent to the final bill.
The surcharge — OK’d by Mayor Bill de Blasio last October — was introduced to help Big Apple restaurants survive the pandemic. But many New Yorkers say they’re only just starting to notice it tacked onto their bills as restaurants with expanded outdoor seating capacity start filling up like it was 2019.
“My colleagues and I were just talking about COVID charges. It’s a hot topic,” said Yovanka Bylander, who works at an investment advisory firm. “I noticed it when I was out recently, and a colleague said he noticed it at his birthday dinner at Don Angie” in the West Village.
“That was just a 4 percent COVID surcharge and he was OK with that. But sometimes you get a 10 percent surprise at the end. I mean, come on. We all want to help, but restaurants have to be transparent about it,” she said.
A Don Angie source said the surcharge helps offset extra COVID costs, and that the eatery charged 4 percent instead of 10 percent because they didn’t want to gouge their customers. “So far,” the source said, “our customers have been very positive and supportive.”
Restaurants that add the surcharge are required to warn the customer ahead of time. Many of them do this with a notice attached to the menu, but diners say it often goes unnoticed until the bill arrives.
“It’s annoying, and the bigger the surcharge, the more annoying it gets,” said a diner who asked not to be named. “I’d rather they tell you up front, because even if it is written on the menu, you can miss it.”
A Tribeca resident and tech firm COO said he was surprised when he was recently slapped with a 5 percent surcharge at Serafina.
“It was very clear on the bill, but there was no message about it beforehand,” he said. “We always tip 25 percent after tax, so that COVID line item surcharge was significant.”
A Serafina source said the restaurant tells customers about the surcharge verbally when they order.
The local law is designed to expire 90 days after New York’s state of emergency is lifted. It’s unclear when that will happen even as dining capacity is set to return to 100 percent on May 19.
City officials say there are currently no plans to take the pesky surcharge off the table.
Aristotle “Telly” Hatzigeorgiou of Clinton Hall said the city’s resurgence has convinced him to do away with the 10 percent surcharge starting Friday.
“Our hope is that this relaxation of the stringent rules will bring out diners,” he said. “And we want to reward those diners by eliminating the 10 percent charge that helped us get through the additional expenses to keep our staff and customers safe.”