Green Room

“This Will Close Our Business”

posted at 11:25 am on March 27, 2010 by

You hear that, Washington? That’s one voice in a sea of voices. If you can tear yourself away from the fist-bumping and cork-popping for a minute (God knows why you see this occasion as justifying that type of behavior in the first place!), you may want to listen to some of those voices.

Barack Obama is forever reading us fictitious emails from voters who think he’s doing a swell job and who are chewing off their left paws to pay for health care. Or at least this was supposedly the case before his health care reform package became law this past Tuesday. Maybe he should now turn his attention to real comments from real people who see his law for the abomination it is. In this post, I will focus on the reactions from business owners in one industry: the food service sector.

By now, many of you are aware that in addition to blogging here at the HotAir Greenroom I write about the New York City restaurant scene for In my capacity as a restaurant journalist, I can tell you that this past year has been a living hell for the food service industry. Two New York City landmark restaurants—Cafe des Artiste and Chanterelle—closed as a direct result of the recession. Countless lesser establishments were shuttered as well. Granted the economic woes currently facing the country began during George W. Bush’s second term. That in no way shifts blame away from the Obama administration, which in essence threw a large chunk of the taxpayers’ money up in the air and hoped it would do some good, then giddily turned its attention to the undoing of capitalism.

In preparation for some of my food columns, I have occasion to read Nation’s Restaurant News, a trade publication serving the food and hospitality industries. A column in NRN on March 22—the day after the House vote on health care—encapsulated the view of the NRA (the other NRA, the National Restaurant Association), whose executive vice president of policy and government affairs, stated: “The National Restaurant Association opposed the bill that passed the House because it includes provisions that will impose tremendous burdens on America’s restaurants and hurt our industry’s ability to create and sustain jobs.”

NRN followed up the next day with comments from restaurateurs industry professionals who had written in to share their reactions to the bill. These comments are reproduced below in their entirety. Out of seven comments, I count two positive reactions, four negatives, and one “not sure.” That’s 28.5 percent of business owners in favor of the legislation—not would you’d call a stellar report card.

“This will close our business. The downturn in the economy and the escalating cost of labor, food and fuel has us using our own savings to meet restaurant expenses. We have been in our family-owned business for 23 years and have suffered many down times, but this has been the worst. People are afraid to spend money on things that aren’t necessary. A trip to a restaurant, even an economical one like ours, is out of the budget.” — Pearl Beaupre, Fairmont Restaurant, Savannah, Ga.

“This will help our business. We will now be on a more level playing field with industries that offer real pay and benefits. There have been complaints for years about how to recruit the best and brightest. Now we can rise with the tide.” — Diane Withrow, Hospitality Management, Cape Fear Community College, Wilmington, N.C

“This is horrible for business. Restaurateurs are now faced with a lot of uncertainty. This could mean that the new jobs that would have been created by opening new restaurants — the jobs that are desperately needed in this economic environment — will now not materialize. If small business is afraid to grow, how will our country recover?” — Claudia Levitas, senior vice president and general counsel, Huddle House, Atlanta

“This mandated regulation is not a reform measure but a deforming setback. The restaurant industry is suffering from the retrenchment in consumer spending and sustained levels of unemployment and underemployment. Now this bill adds a tremendous cost burden to the industry. Restaurateurs cannot easily pass on higher prices to adjust for the cost burden and surely cannot endure another cost pressure, therefore, this new bill occurs at the most inopportune time for the industry to try and cope with it.” — Craig Weichmann, Brazos River Advisors LLC, Greenville, Texas

“We have no idea how this health care bill will affect us. I don’t have time to read a 2,400-page document and after reading many articles and listening to all the ‘talking heads’ on TV, I still have no idea what this bill means … We are trying to do the right thing by offering insurance but we don’t know what this does to us.” — Charles M. Winston Jr., The Winston Group Management Co., Raleigh, N.C.

“While I am no longer a restaurant owner I continue to pay close attention to the industry that I dearly love. During my restaurant ownership years, I employed about 20 employees and if this bill was in effect then, it would have helped my employees and me. Even back in 1990 I provided health insurance for my employees — although they paid a portion of the premiums as a payroll deduction — and the cost of a small business health insurance package was significant then and would be impossible today. Providing health insurance coverage for restaurant workers is the right thing to do and this legislation will help both owners and employees find coverage that is more affordable; but perhaps not affordable enough. I continue to believe that to achieve cost containment in this industry two other things must occur: tort reform and a government option.” — Rich Turnbull, Corvallis, Ore.

“I operate three franchises in New Jersey and have a total of 140 employees … I haven’t been able to provide health care because of the cost, and now with the proposed fines, if I don’t, I will need to raise my menu [prices] 25 percent to pay the fines or provide care. The past few years have been more trying than any in my past almost 40 years in the business. I don’t believe the consumer will understand the reason business prices will increase, [and] customer counts will go down, layoffs will occur and the cycle will continue … I shudder to think how many small business people will shut the doors as this will put them into the crimson rather than just in the red.” — George Ebinger, board member, New Jersey Restaurant Association, Toms River, N.J.

Obama, can you hear these people?

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This bho, team, and the d’s hear, but do not give a flying flit! I have no clue how this bho thinks he will tax the daylights out of the people who are working and the businesses who are not out of business to fund this gosh horrible bill and others like it to come down the pike. It will not happen! China and Japan will stop loaning us money then we will be sol.

letget on March 27, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Team Obama and their useful idiot zombies will respond to such embarrassing pleas for compassion with a Monty Python french taunt, “I faahrt in your general direction.”

The sooner people get their minds around the fact that these coldblooded basterds are doing this willingly and with malice the sooner we can throw down and get it on.

miles on March 27, 2010 at 11:54 AM

Has everyone noticed that the two comments that favor Obamacare come from a community college hospitality dir. and a former restaurant owner?

bondomon on March 27, 2010 at 12:21 PM

bondomon on March 27, 2010 at 12:21 PM

I sure did.

Jeff2161 on March 27, 2010 at 12:39 PM

Since Obama loves to use tax dollars to jet off for trips to New York restaurants with Michelle and the kids, it would be interesting if someone asked the proprietors of those restaurants how they think ObamaCare will affect their businesses and how they provide benefits to their employees (though I suppose calling it ObamaCare might get their guard up to not say what they think more than just calling it health care reform)

jon1979 on March 27, 2010 at 12:47 PM

Obama, can you hear these people?

No, the champagne corks are too loud. Besides, he’s too busy picking fights with everyone to care.

Conservatives need to hammer on the points in this bill that affect businesses and individuals, like taxes and jail sentences. The libs will harp on the heart-wrenching aspects and do as Wisconsin’s governor did in citing all of the typical Dem sob story talking points. Cons need to counter with the hard, cold facts.

College Prof on March 27, 2010 at 12:48 PM

Time for a new (old) business model.

At the Berghoff in Chicago, the waiters were, once upon a time, independent contractors. It sounds crazy, but .. the waiters would rent part of the floor (X number of tables) and agree to buy food from the kitchen.

This led to cases where diners would be charged similar but not identical rates for eating exactly the same food in different parts of the dining room as waiters adjusted their profit margins. Charge too little, and it’s not worth the time; charge too much, and have customers reject your tables on sight…

I am wondering if, in this day and age, an eatery could run like the Berghoff used to.


* The Berghoff is still open for lunch, and the food is still phenomenal, but there are no more waiters – everyone carries their own tray through a serving line…

acat on March 27, 2010 at 1:08 PM

bondomon: That’s actually a critical distinction you note, especially as it pertains to the first of the two positive responses, since 6 of 7 college professors claim that they are liberal. It’s a point I should have made myself in the post, in which I erroneously refer to these as “comments from restaurateurs.” I will make the correction. Thanks for pointing this out.

Howard Portnoy on March 27, 2010 at 1:08 PM

One simple question:

Why the ^&%@ is the responsibility of an employer to ensure that his or her employee have health insurance?

PackerBronco on March 27, 2010 at 1:18 PM

One simple question:

Why the ^&%@ is the responsibility of an employer to ensure that his or her employee have health insurance?

PackerBronco on March 27, 2010 at 1:18 PM

World War 2. Seemed practical at the time.

CK MacLeod on March 27, 2010 at 2:28 PM


Extra on the HC – to go.

ericdijon on March 27, 2010 at 2:39 PM

World War 2. Seemed practical at the time.

CK MacLeod on March 27, 2010 at 2:28 PM

Weren’t there pay restrictions which caused companies to offer other benefits to entice employees?

Disturb the Universe on March 27, 2010 at 2:44 PM

This blog post explains the historical accident, which congress then reinforced with an absurdly inequitable tax preference, neatly:

Naturally, when McCain’s ’08 HCR proposal sought to begin the correction of this inestimably costly absurdity, it was made the subject of Obamagoguery. Just as naturally, O-care has resorted to a version of the McCain proposal that draws on its worst aspects – doing what O accused McCain of proposing, without achieving the benefits.

Business as usual, American 2010.

CK MacLeod on March 27, 2010 at 3:57 PM

World War 2. Seemed practical at the time.

CK MacLeod on March 27, 2010 at 2:28 PM

Yeah, I was aware of the historical roots of this mindset; I’m just commenting the basic absurdity that demands health care coverage from your employee.

PackerBronco on March 27, 2010 at 4:42 PM

One of my sons owns and operates his own business. He states flatly that this will push his thin profit margin into the red. Announced only half kidding that he had just 2.5 year before he either had to go to jail or lose his assets because he simply cannot pay for these mandates and does not intend to do it regardless. Que sera! We are all wondering what the government will do to him and what programs for the poor he can join.

jeanie on March 27, 2010 at 5:08 PM

Many sole-proprieter small businesses which are taxed as if they are individuals, especially restaurants, have profit margins of three to five per cent. Even a small increase in the cost of doing business will drive them out of business — such as a 2.5% of income fine for not providing health care.

Dhuka on March 27, 2010 at 8:12 PM




Opposite Day on March 27, 2010 at 11:37 PM

But you see it is not fair that these people have businesses and we don’t. Some people are going to have to step down so that others can step up. You owners have raped the American people long enough, making profits fer cryin’ out loud!

/Obamalogic mode off

GnuBreed on March 28, 2010 at 2:08 AM

My neighbor used to have a plumbing business … He is planning shut down now, as new home construction has all but stopped. Then the Democrats trashed the new housing market with their 1977 CRA and it’s mythical pursuit of the unicorn redlining.

He had about 50 employees.

tarpon on March 28, 2010 at 10:51 AM

“This will help our business. We will now be on a more level playing field with industries that offer real pay and benefits. There have been complaints for years about how to recruit the best and brightest. Now we can rise with the tide.” — Diane Withrow, Hospitality Management, Cape Fear Community College, Wilmington, N.C

Note how one of the positive comments about ObamaCare came from a public employee.

rokemronnie on March 28, 2010 at 3:18 PM

Obama, can you hear these people?

Not only does he hear them, his policies are intentionally and maliciously harmful. It is analogous to asking a murderer if he knows that gun might hurt someone.

turfmann on March 28, 2010 at 6:33 PM

Starting next January, after the Rs take control of the House, they should start parading small business owners that went out of business or had to cut jobs to meet the new mandates in O-care. Do this until everyone gets the message and supports repealing O-care.

belad on March 29, 2010 at 12:39 PM

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