Newsom signs law allowing restaurants to keep surcharges, fees on checks

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law on Saturday that keeps surcharges on restaurant and bar checks in the state legal. Senate Bill 1524 will make restaurants exempt from another new state law banning "junk fees." 

"I understand both sides of the debate, but I just really appreciate transparency in my dining, "said Kenneth Lim, owner of The Hobnob in Alameda. "I don’t really agree with putting the surcharges on. I would rather just raise my prices and clearly have it labeled on the menu, so the guest can see it before, not at the end."

Under the law signed by the governor, surcharges listed on restaurant and bar bills must now be "clearly and conspicuously displayed with an explanation of its purpose."

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association, which strongly backed the new bill, released a statement on Saturday that said in part, "After nine months of stress and uncertainty, we are relieved to have clarity as to the use of service or surcharges on restaurant menus. So many of our members are independent restaurants and rely on these line item charges to provide employee benefits and support pay equity. This clarification is much appreciated."


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Some Bay Area restaurant diners also applauded the move on Saturday.

"I believe the surcharges that I’ve seen, have been attached to the bills for good reason, for the ability to pay servers medical insurance, higher pay. I think that’s good. I think that’s terrific," said Abigail Shaw, who was dining on Park Street in Alameda.

But other patrons said they viewed the surcharges as an additional cost to bear in an already expensive state.

"Raising a family of five in a high cost of living, and then on top of that, having a surcharge, makes it extremely challenging," said Maritess Hochderffer in Alameda.

"I don’t think it’s a good thing," added Dwayne Coleman in Alameda. "We’re already paying so many taxes on pretty much everything."

The new law is scheduled to go into effect on July 1.