A Florida sports bar is now serving its burgers and wings with a side of political controversy, and diners aren't feeling it.
Eight locations of Gator's Dockside, a popular central Florida sports bar chain, have started tacking on 1 percent "ACA Surcharge" to customers' bills, CNN Money reported Thursday. The Gator Group, which runs the eight locations, claims that the surcharge is necessary to offset the cost of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The company maintains it's just being transparent with customers:
Though the restaurant blames the new surcharge on Obamacare, the employer mandate, which will require Gator's Dockside to provide coverage to 70 percent of its full-time employees, actually won't go into effect until 2015. Currently, only the restaurant's managers receive healthcare, according to CNN Money.
"The owner opted to do this so the customer can see the cost increase themselves," Chayse Nail, a general manager at the Clermont location, told The Huffington Post in a phone call. "If we added it to food costs, you’d be paying more on your food and sales taxes... it's not something we're doing to generate more profit."
In the past week, Gator's Dockside patrons have expressed some outrage about the policy.
"This is about making an angry statement & passing [the owner's] irritation on to every customer who eats there," writes Samantha M Phillips on the restaurant's Facebook page. "The approach is immature & unprofessional."
"Plenty of places sell wings and burgers and don't try to make political statements. I'll be taking my business to one of those restaurants from now on," writes Larry Ross.
Nail said customer reactions have mostly been indifferent. "As long as they have good food and good service they don’t particularly care about the one percent, because it is just a penny on a dollar," Nail said. "Only one or two people actually left the restaurant over it, and we have some people say we’re geniuses, that it’s the smartest thing they’ve ever seen."
Not all of Gator's Dockside's 21 locations are adding the fee. The 13 that are owned by other franchise operators are struggling to combat negative perceptions:
Other restaurants around the country have come under fire for similar tactics. A Florida Denny's backtracked after adding a 5 percent Obamacare surcharge in 2012 because of the public backlash, and a restaurant in Los Angeles has irked many by placing an optional 3 percent surcharge for employee healthcare.