Local Gator Dockside sites not adding health care charge

Published: Monday, March 3, 2014 at 4:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 3, 2014 at 4:49 p.m.

Local Gator’s Dockside officials say they are catching a lot of flak even though they are not among those adding an Affordable Care Act surcharge to customer bills.

The Lake Mary-based owner of eight out of the 21 Gator’s Dockside locations is adding 1 percent listed on customer bills as “ACA Surcharge” to help pay for employee health care.

Jerry Roberts, co-owner of four locations --in Gainesville, Ocala, Lake City and Tampa -- said his restaurants are not adding the surcharge, although he has received hundreds of phone calls, emails and Facebook messages from angry people who think they are after seeing news reports.

“It’s mostly pretty raunchy stuff,” he said. “People are ruthless, calling us every name you can possibly imagine.”

Roberts said he learned about the eight locations adding the surcharge when it hit the news last week.

The story was widely reported throughout Florida and picked up by CNN, Reuters and Huffington Post, among others.

Signs on doors and handed out with menus read, “The costs associated with ACA compliance could ultimately close our doors. Instead of raising prices on our products to generate the additional revenue needed to cover the costs of ACA compliance, certain Gator's Dockside locations have implemented a 1% surcharge on all food and beverage purchases only.”

Sandra Clark, director of operations for Gator’s Dockside Group, told CNN that they estimate the company will spend $500,000 to provide coverage to full-time hourly employees at the eight restaurants while the surcharge may raise $160,000. About half of their 500 employees work full time. Currently, only management receives coverage.

Roberts said he considers the Affordable Care Act a cost of doing business like the price of food, gas and utilities. He said he is not sure yet what the ACA will cost them, but he is opposed to the surcharge idea.

“It really creates a negative light for us in the restaurant,” he said. “It’s disappointing they’re doing that and not something we’re even considering.”

Roberts said it is hard to tell if business has suffered from the publicity, but he will know better in the long term.

“Some people are saying, ‘I’ve been to your restaurant and will never go back again.’ They tell 10 other people they’re not going,” he said.

“Please support us. We’re here in the community. We’re here and we’re never going to charge that fee no matter what happens.”

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