Tom Ammiano Calls SF Restaurants' Shenanigans "Chicken Shit"

Scott Lucas | January 30, 2013 | Story Restaurants

"It's chicken shit," said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, referring to reports that San Francisco restaurant owners pocketed millions of dollars that were required by city law to be spent on employee health care. "I take it personally," he said, "and I think my feelings reflect those of the San Francisco public."

As a city supervisor in 2006, Ammiano was the primary architect of the Healthy SF law that requires businesses with 20 workers or more to set aside an extra $1.55 an hour to fund health care for employees. (Companies with 100 employees or more must put in $2.33 an hour.) As a result, many restaurants have added a surchage to their customers' bills—without using the money to fund employee health plans. City Attorney Dennis Herrera has announced an investigation into dozens of restaurants, a move that leaves Ammiano "mollified but not satisfied." In fact, he's still pretty fired up about the whole thing. "It's grand theft. If other people had been doing it, they would be facing jail time."

Although the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) has signaled its support for Herrera's move, many restaurants in San Francisco have been bitterly opposed to the program since its inception. In 2006, the GGRA filed suit to force an end to the program, waging a legal battle that continued until 2010, when the Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal. Ammiano lamented that, "there has been a lot of pushback. That's part of the process. But this is puerile. It's no surprise to me that many of the restaurants on the list now were part of the group that sued and lost."

A list of the alleged offenders—which includes Michael Mina, The Wayfare Tavern, and The Slanted Door—may be found here.

UPDATE (1/31/13): Rob Black, executive director of the GGRA, emailed San Francisco in response to Ammiano's comments.

"Assemblymember Ammiano admits that he is both politically and personally biased on this issue, so his comments should be taken with a grain of salt and probably a shot of tequila. It is incredibly irresponsible for an elected official to accuse someone of criminal behavior when they have no facts on which to base the accusation. Fortunately City Attorney Herrera has committed to a fair, fact-based inquiry—not a personal vendetta against local businesses. Once the City Attorney completes his review, we believe that the vast majority of businesses currently under scrutiny will be cleared of any intentional wrong doing."

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