APTOS — Some restaurants in Santa Cruz County have recently started adding a surcharge, or an additional charge, to customers bills to help with employees living expenses.

One customer cited a 4% surcharge on Facebook from her receipt after eating in August at Bittersweet Bistro in Aptos.

James Arnold, a host/busser at Bittersweet Bistro, said the surcharge went into effect July 31.

The restaurant informs customers about the charge on its menu.

“A 4% surcharge will be added to each bill to help cover increasing operations and labor costs,” according to the menu.

The county doesnt have any laws or ordinances regarding the surcharge, according to Jason Hoppin, the countys communications manager. The county also doesnt have a way of determining if the money is actually going to workers, Hoppin said.

Pleasure Pizza East Side Eatery in Santa Cruz is another restaurant in the county that uses a surcharge. Ceasar Renteria, a front house server/manager at East Side Eatery, said the 3% charge is implemented to “help the kitchen earn more money without raising prices or changing the whole menu dynamic.” The money from the charge does not go to servers or other employees, he said, but only to kitchen staff. The surcharge is explained on the menu and applies to all purchases at the restaurant, Renteria said.

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“A lot of people are really happy and support it,” Renteria said, adding that about 1% of customers arent happy with the new charge.

Bittersweet Bistro implemented a 4% surcharge starting July 31 for operations and labor costs. (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

While the surcharge isnt regulated in Santa Cruz, the city and county of San Francisco have an ordinance allowing surcharges there. The Health Care Security Ordinance went into effect in January 2008, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The Chronicle reported some restaurants having a surcharge as high as 6%.

The ordinance defines a health care expenditure as “any amount paid by a covered employer to its covered employees or to a third party on behalf of its covered employees for the purpose of providing or reimbursing the cost of health care services.”

Covered workers are those who work eight or more hours per week in San Francisco and have been employed for more than 90 days, according to the 2019 ordinance notice. Employers with 20 workers to 99 workers must spend at least $1.95 for each hour payable for each covered employee. Employers with 100 or more workers must spend at least $2.93 for each hour payable for each covered employee.

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