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Popular L.A. eatery adds 3 percent surcharge, cites Obamacare

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A popular French-style bistro in Los Angeles has added a 3 percent surcharge to each guest check to cover their workers' health coverage under Obamacare's mandates.

Republique has taken heat from patrons for the tacked-on cost, but managing partner Bill Chait told Southern California Public Radio there is a method behind the madness.

The restaurant wanted its 80-plus workers to be full-time workers, but the health care law in the coming years will require large employers to provide health coverage to its full-timers or pay fines.

Although the Obama administration has delayed the mandate for companies of 50 to 99 employees to 2016, critics say the rule is forcing employers to trim payroll or move people to part-time status ahead of time.

From there, employees can fend for themselves on new insurance exchanges set up under Obamacare.

"There's an inherent incentive to put people in the exchanges and not through the restaurant and their employers if they're part-time employees," Mr. Chait told SCPR.

But that wasn't good enough for Mr. Chait or chef Walter Manzke.

"Cutting employees has never been a good option to me, which is the option that everyone's taking," Mr. Manzke told the station. "You don't have dedication and commitment."

The restaurant has set up an HMO plan for its employees, and about 95 percent of the staff has opted in, the managers told SCPR.

While some customers are bewildered by the surcharge, the eatery promised that all of that money will go toward health coverage.

"In the same way that you assure them that the 28-day dry aged côte de boeuf is actually 28-day dry aged côte de boeuf," sommelier Taylor Parsons told the station. "There's a certain element of trust that's required in this business, and ultimately the integrity that you show in your operation has to carry through."

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