MN Hospitality Advocate

Industry Impacts Outdoor Seating Charges

Posted in Uncategorized by hospitalityminnesota on September 25, 2009

The Metropolitan Council assesses and implements what are known as Service Availability Charges (SAC) on restaurants throughout the seven-county metropolitan area. These one-time charges are assessed on businesses to provide access to the regional sewer system. While the Metropolitan Council determines the SAC charges, it is then up to the individual cities to in fact assess and collect the charges.

We learned recently that many cities in the metro area had not been assessing the SAC charge on outdoor seating, which was counter to the Met Council’s understanding of the charge. Upon auditing the cities’ efforts with regard to the SAC charges, Met Council realized this and began seeking to have the cities assess the charge, which is $2,000 per every eight outdoor seats. In some cases, this “new” charge was reaching $40,000 or more.

The Minnesota Restaurant Association joined with a number of other metropolitan businesses to protest the outdoor seating charges. We testified before the council on September 9, as did the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul themselves. We were successful. Starting October 1, the Metropolitan Council will reduce the outdoor seating SAC charges by 75%.

At the hearing, we pointed out that seating outside simply displaces patrons who would otherwise be inside. In other words, the outdoor seating doesn’t add usage, but moves existing usage from inside to outside. Further, we pointed out that many days of our short summers are unusable due to bad weather and bugs.

The fees go toward capital expenses for the region’s inter-city sewer system. Charges are based on sewer capacity, or how much the system must be capable of handling at peak moments. The formula for restaurants calls for them to pay the SAC charge of $2,000 per eight seats both inside and out. It’s a one-time fee paid when a space is expanded or built.

This fee reduction is a tremendous victory. For example, Terry Keegan closed the patio last year on his Keegan’s Irish Pub to avoid a $7,200 SAC. With the reduction, Keegan intends to reopen the patio next year.

Many of those who testified at the hearing outlined the importance of outdoor seating. It adds to the ambiance of the city. Patios also make the city safer as patrons keep their eyes open for nefarious street activity.

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Assocations

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Associations Provide 2009-10 Annual Law Review

Posted in General Advocacy, Lodging Issues, Resort Issues, Restaurant Issues, State Laws, State Rules by hospitalityminnesota on September 7, 2009

Wow, the 2009-2010 Annual Law Review is now complete and has been sent to all Association members. This 148-page reference is the bible of laws and regulations affecting Minnesota’s hospitality industry. Topics covered include:

  • OSHA requirements
  • Minimum wage and tip credit
  • Proper employee termination
  • Lodging tax law
  • Health laws and codes
  • Sales tax fact sheets
  • State versus Federal statutes
  • Overtime
  • Much more

As a hospitality operator, this review can literally save you thousands of dollars in fines and headaches. There is no more comprehensive overview of both the federal and state laws that impact you every day.

You can access the law review with your member login. If you can’t remember your login, please contact Carrie Burinda at (651) 925-4016.

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Assocations

National Restaurant Association Launches Health Care Site

Posted in Lodging Issues, Resort Issues, Restaurant Issues, Uncategorized by hospitalityminnesota on September 4, 2009

As we’ve conducted sessions around the state, it’s clear that health care reform is very much on the mind of small business owners. They are fearful they will be mandated to provide coverage, or face penalties if they do not. Not a one that we’ve talked to doesn’t want to provide the coverage, but the issue is cost.

To gain more information on key health care principles for the restaurant industry, see the National Restuarant Association’s new site at http://www.restauranthealthcarereforminfo.com/page.asp?content=startpage&g=nra_hcare

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Assocations

PCI Compliance and Data Truncation

Posted in Lodging Issues, Resort Issues, Restaurant Issues, Uncategorized by hospitalityminnesota on September 4, 2009

We received a call this month from a restaurant operator who is facing a class action lawsuit for failing to remove the expiration dates from the credit card receipts he provided to patrons. This is a very serious situation. A reminder here to all restaurant, lodging and resort and campground operators — your credit card receipts must truncate the number (revealing only the last four) and cannot contain expiration dates.

Your point of sale system vendors can likely help you with this conversion if you are not presently in compliance. Our advice is to get on this right away. Check the recently mailed Annual Law Review for more information about PCI compliance and credit card data. The Law Review can also be viewed online at our member website, www.hospitalitymn.org in the government affairs section.

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Assocations

What is Our Kitchen Cabinet?

Posted in General Advocacy, Restaurant Issues by hospitalityminnesota on September 3, 2009

The Minnesota Restaurant Association is embarking on the creation of a grasstops Kitchen Cabinet. The Cabinet will consist of 67 leading restaurateurs – one in each of the 67 Minnesota senate districts. Those 67 restaurant leaders will then find colleagues in their respective House A and B sides.

With this in place, the Minnesota Restaurant Association will have a powerful tool to positively influence state legislative activity, to tell the story of our industry in each district and to bring feedback on vital issues back to the Jt. Legislative Committee of the Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Associations.

To date, we have successfully recruited some 40 of our Kitchen Cabinet members, and they are passionate about their mission. Our thanks to Dowell Stute & Associates for their assistance in launching the Kitchen Cabinet.

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Assocations

New Statute Regarding Pharmaceutical Reps

Posted in Restaurant Issues, State Laws, Tourism Issues, Uncategorized by hospitalityminnesota on September 3, 2009

During our Kitchen Cabinet meetings, we’ve learned of a new statute apparently passed this most recent legislative session that limits the amount of money pharmaceutical company sales representatives can spend on doctors in a given year to $50. We are told there is a further limitation on the amount spent per day or event on a doctor.

This has had an immediate and perhaps unintended consequence for Minnesota’s restaurant industry. We have been amazed to learn the large number of restaurants across the state that used to gain business from these pharmaceutical reps who have seen that spigot essentially shut.

As a result, fewer meals are being purchased for these doctors and others at restaurants and the state is collecting substantially less tax revenue from our industry. The law couldn’t have come at a worse time – Technomic is one of the leading forecasters for our industry and reports that this is the worst environment for restaurants since they began tracking some 30 years ago.

We’ll look into this new statute and see what action might be taken to help our state’s restaurants regain this business. The reps will spend the money somewhere, why not here in Minnesota?

David Siegel, CAE, IOM
Minnesota Restaurant, Lodging and Resort & Campground Assocations