Some restaurants surcharge for health coverage preview - WFLA News Channel 8

Lakeland restaurant adds surcharge to pay employee health care

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Some central Florida Gator's Dockside restaurants are now charging customers a 1 percent surcharge on their meals. Some central Florida Gator's Dockside restaurants are now charging customers a 1 percent surcharge on their meals.
LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) - When the owner of Gator's Dockside in Tampa heard that others in the restaurant chain were imposing a surcharge on customers to pay for health insurance for their restaurant's employees, he couldn't believe it.

"I'm disappointed that they are charging that. It puts everyone at Gator's Dockside in a negative light to an extent and we wish they were not charging this. It is shame that they have chosen to do that," said Jerry Roberts, who owns four Gator's Docksides in Tampa, Ocala, Gainesville and Lake City.

The group that owns nine Gator's Dockside restaurants in the Orlando area is also not adding the surcharge, according to Joe Foranoce, Jr., Director of Operations.

A 1 percent surcharge is being added to checks at Gator's Dockside restaurants in Jacksonville, Clermont, Eustis, The Villages and Lakeland, to offset the cost of Obamacare for their employees. 

"We are defiantly doing it to stay afloat, it is not political in anyway, the president may have brought this agenda to the forefront, but it is what's law now and what's made it law makes it real for us," said Sandra Clark with the Gator's Dockside Group.

The owners of the Gator's Dockside in Lakeland say that passing on the costs of health insurance to customers is simply the cost of doing business.  The owner of Tampa's franchise disagrees.

"There is really no reason for us to be charging that and the public at large is not in support of it. So, it is not something we would even consider charging," said Roberts.

The Lakeland location has a sign posted on the door telling people about the surcharge. Customers say they'll think twice about patronizing the business in the future.

"I am hungry and I want some good chicken wings, so I will pay the 1 percent. But, it will be interesting to see how over time that plays out, and ultimately it will be based on customers needs in terms of whether they are willing to pay it," said customer John Sloane.

Other customers say they understand the need for the surcharge.

"A business just needs to operate, earn a profit, maintain it's associates and employees, unfortunately the consumer is going to be paying for it," said Kirk Wolfinbarger.

There are nine Gator's Dockside locations in the Orlando area.  Those locations are not adding the surcharge to their bills.

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