What do you think of businesses charging ‘COVID-19’ surcharges?

While the Massachusetts Restaurant Association says they do not know of anyone charging a COVID surcharge, Boston 25 has learned the idea is on the table.

BOSTON — As restaurants prepare to reopen, how they recoup losses and keep running is top of mind.

In some states around the country, restaurants are starting to add in what’s being called a “COVID surcharge.” One is a burger joint called Goog’s Grub and Pub in Michigan.

“We’re just trying to pay the bills so we can stay open until this things is over,” said the owner of that business, Brad White.

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While the Massachusetts Restaurant Association says they do not know of anyone charging a COVID surcharge, Boston 25 has learned the idea is on the table.

Brian Houlihan owns five restaurants on the South Shore as part of the Eat Local Restaurant Group.

“We’ve talked about it ourselves. I’ve talked to a couple of other restaurants about the idea but I haven’t seen anyone put it into effect around here yet,” Houlihan said.

Houlihan believes if he did do it, not making it mandatory would be the best approach.

“If you do it as an option, as opposed to mandatory, I think it’s something to remind the patrons of the tough times you’ve been through in the last couple of months,” Houlihan said.

And Boston 25 has learned it’s not just restaurants considering this.

Marc Harris, a Newbury Street salon, has informed customers it will charge a fee to help defray social distancing costs. In a letter to customers obtained by Boston 25, the salon states:

“... as we attempt to recover and stabilize our business, having incurred substantial losses, we will also be required to absorb the burden of new costs. These costs are directly associated with the physical changes required for the facility, as well as additional products and services required to meet new governmental guidelines to ensure a safe environment for all. To mitigate these financial challenges, we will need to impose a facility fee of $4.00 for single service appointments and $8.00 for multi service appointments.”

For restaurant owners like Houlihan, not simply adding a surcharge but giving customers a choice is key.

"But it’s an option, you don’t necessarily get charged it,” he said.

Other businesses like Ocean State Job Lot are charging an optional 2 percent surcharge to customers. On its website, it says all the the money from that surcharge goes back to employees.

One business leader told Boston 25 that as businesses begin to reopen, the reality of the new normal may force many to consider a surcharge so they can remain open.

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