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D.C. Oceanaire adds 3% tab surcharge

Landry’s brand seeks to offset wages, costs

The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Washington, D.C., has added a three percent surcharge to meal receipts to accommodate increased minimum wages in the district as well as other costs, local media reported this week.

Oceanaire, owned by Houston-based Landry’s Inc., added the surcharge along with a receipt note: "Due to the rising costs of doing business in this location, including costs associated with higher minimum wage rates, a 3% surcharge has been added to your total bill.”

The charge was reported Aug. 15, along with a receipt photograph, on the local D.C. blog PoPville.

The District of Columbia minimum wage rose by $1 an hour on July 1, to $12.50. It is scheduled to increase to $13.25 an hour in 2018 and $14 an hour in 2019. The federal minimum wage remains at $7.25 an hour.

Questions about the surcharge, posed to Oceanaire’s Houston-based media relations firm, had not been returned by press time.

The District of Columbia’s Office of Consumer Protection told the local Fox 5 television station that a complaint would have to be filed in order to investigate the restaurant’s fee.

Officials told the station that the main issue would be disclosure to patrons about the surcharge. The restaurant’s menu includes a printed message about the three percent surcharge, the report said.

Other restaurant brands have tested similar surcharges.

Last August, Seattle, Wash.-based Restaurants Unlimited Inc. discontinued a one percent “living wage” surcharge it had added to checks at restaurants in Portland, Ore.

Restaurants Unlimited, which has 45 casual-dining restaurants in 10 states under such names as Henry’s Tavern, Kincaid’s, Palomino and Stanford’s, had added the one percent surcharge with the notation “LWageSC” on checks after Oregon increased its minimum wage to $9.75 an hour.

Oceanaire has a dozen locations in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

Update: Aug. 18, 2017 Oceanaire Seafood Room has rescinded the 3-percent surcharge and is offering to refund customers who paid it.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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