No to COVID tax

Owner's of Tully's II in Monona said the restaurant won't charge a COVID tax to make up for lost revenue or additional required supplies for staff due to the coronavirus.

At least two local restaurant owners say they will not be adding a surcharge to customers’ bills to make up for money lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a story seen earlier on NBC-15, several restaurants in West Plains, Missouri, in the southern part of the state along the Arkansas border, have added a 5 percent fee to make up for the high cost of food during the pandemic.

Sherry Hayes, co-owner of Tully’s II in Monona, said she will not be adopting a similar charge.

“I just think if you provide good service and good food, you will get the people coming back. If you have a clean place, and you are willing to wear masks and gloves and sterilize things, your reputation is what’s going to bring people back,” Hayes said. “You don’t need a surcharge to make up what you’ve lost.”

Hayes said they were hoping to reopen for sit-down service May 26 at 20 percent capacity, which would comply with the mandated 6-foot distancing between tables as ordered by the Department of Health. She said her restaurant is large enough to make money at such limited capacity.

“I feel sorry for these places that don’t have the room to honor the 6-foot spacing rule,” she said. “We’re going to provide a good service, a clean restaurant and good food and let our reputation make us some money.”

Luke Ismaili, the owner of Luke’s Restaurant in McFarland, also believes adding a COVID-19 surcharge to customers’ tabs is not a good idea.

“I don’t believe in that stuff. It is what it is, and you cannot recover your lost revenue by charging the customers extra,” Ismaili said. “It’s better to raise your prices 1 percent or 2 percent on your menu.”

Susan Quam, executive vice president of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, told NBC-15 she is unaware of any restaurants in the state adding the surcharge, but it’s possible. She stressed it would not be price gouging.

“Rather than raise the price of the meal, it would just be a surcharge at the bottom of the ticket, so the customer really understands ‘Hey, I’m not gouging you on prices. … I’m passing on the cost incurred to me,’” she said.

Officials said restaurant customers concerned about a COVID-19 surcharge should ask beforehand and then determine if they want to pay it.

Meanwhile, the Black Bear Inn in Cottage Grove is taking a wait-and-see attitude on adding the surcharge and when to reopen the restaurant to the public. Kate DeRosa, the daughter of owner Dominic, said last week, their cost of food has risen 100 percent, and there have been discussions on how to make up for that increase.

“Our goal is follow everything our government has to say and also the Department of Health. As long as we are following what their policies and procedures are, we would plan to reopen once they give us the go-ahead,” DeRosa said. “The only way we would be opening on the 26th is if we had a safe plan in place. We are hoping to reach a good time and safe time to reopen.”

DeRosa said due to the smaller dining area, the restaurant could only reopen with about 25 percent capacity in keeping with government restrictions on distancing. She added a decision will eventually be made on whether the restaurant is worth opening under those guidelines or if it should continue to only provide curbside service.

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