Gov goofs, Leonti closes, Pyles out, Tariff troubles, and more...
Family Meal - Tuesday, January 7th, 2020
In a brilliant ploy to get me to link to her weekly email here, Eater EIC Amanda Kludt called Family Meal her “favorite industry newsletter” this week. Longtime readers will know I earned that by never criticizing anything that comes up on her site, so... win win!
Anyway, it worked. And her newsletter is also GOOD. Especially because she prefaces her list of links with a fancy long intro, when the most I can usually muster is:
Let’s get to it…
The Government – When DC city council members decided last year to repeal a voter-approved initiative that would have eliminated the tip credit, they added several “measures, meant to assuage constituents frustrated by politicians moving to overturn the will of voters.” Per Fenit Nirappil in the Washington Post, those measures included a city-sponsored “public awareness campaign about the rights of tipped workers,” a “commission to champion their interests,” an anonymous wage theft tip line, and help training restaurant managers on harassment and wage laws.
That was their pitch: Don’t worry. We’re scrapping the thing you voted for, but we have better ideas! “But,” reports Nirappil, “nothing came of the measures. Neither Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) nor Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), who spearheaded the repeal, included the $2.6 million in the budget necessary for city regulators to enforce the new requirements.”
Whatever you think of Initiative 77 or the consolation regulations ($700k for a website?!), it’s brutal to read Mendelson blame ROC, the group that got 77 across the line, for not lobbying him hard enough to get city hall to fund the ideas put forth in order to repeal 77. Quoth Mendelson: “Stop hitting yourselves, constituents!”
The Government Too – Meanwhile, in NYC, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new law eliminating the tipped minimum for almost all tipped workers except… restaurant and bar workers. Details on that via Ryan Sutton. Congrats to the NYSRA? And in CA, the Chronicle’s Carolyn Said says Uber and Postmates have mounted a legal challenge seeking to block AB5, California’s landmark gig-work law scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, that could turn the companies’ drivers and couriers into employees rather than independent contractors.”
P.S. According to WaPo’s Faiz Siddiqui, Uber is also attempting a workaround specific to CA, which sounds logical (more flexibility for drivers!), but has big discrimination potential written all over it (Q: If delivery drivers can repeatedly reject jobs without penalty, how many will avoid that neighborhood?).
P.P.S. – Quick update on the delivery business model: Louisiana-based Waitr is now on its third CEO in two years, according to Restaurant Dive’s Emma Liem Beckett, and saw $220M net losses last quarter. Neat!
The Departure – In Dallas, Eater’s Amy McCarthy reports, “A little more than three years after opening its doors, chef Stephan Pyles… announced that he’ll shutter Flora Street Cafe and Fauna, the experimental tasting menu spot located inside the restaurant, in a statement on January 2 [Pyles says]… ‘I now will focus on hospitality consulting, my license agreements and my culinary travels with Paula Lambert and David Morris International.’”
The Close – Per Tanay Warerkar in Eater NY: After a 2-year delay on his start at the Williamsburg Hotel, and a subsequent non-compete lawsuit from the same, “Chef Adam Leonti can’t seem to catch a break: His Upper West Side Italian restaurant Leonti has closed just over a year after it opened at 103 West 77th Street... The restaurant served its last meal on January 1; a representative for Leonti declined to provide further details about the closure.”
For the Somm – Alarm bells are going off everywhere about potential new tariffs on European wine, and the NYT’s Eric Asimov writes, “The last month has passed in a blur of fear and dread as the industry contemplates the Trump administration’s threat to impose 100 percent tariffs on all wines imported from the European Union, along with a variety of other goods including foods, spirits and clothing.
Make no mistake, a tariff of that size, or any number close to that, would be catastrophic for Americans in the beverage and hospitality industry. A 100 percent tariff would double the price of wines in shops and restaurants, with disastrous ripple effects.”
NB: If you’re against the tariffs, the National Association of Wine Retailers has resources for getting involved on its website here.
For Design Fans – Here’s the Rey Lopez photo spread on Danny Meyer’s new place in DC. The whole space looks kind of almost there to me, but maybe I’m just bored by little bottle shelves as decor for huge walls? Or maybe it’s that with that look in that space, what a missed opportunity for an outrageous number of ceiling fans! Right? Right.
The Media (Style) – While announcing that the printed food section is moving from Thursday to Sunday, LA Times critic Patricia Escárcega let readers in on a note from their internal style guide this week as well: “If you’re a regular reader of the section, perhaps you noticed another recent change: Last month, we stopped the practice of italicizing non-English words in our food stories.” Obrigado.
The Critics – There was a ton of recent media chatter around this piece from Theodore Gioia in the LA Review of Books, which attempts to discuss “The Midlife Crisis of the American Restaurant Review” by describing reviews as being 72-year old baby boomers (that math checks out, sh). If you want in on that (twitter) conversation, here’s Tim Carman lamenting alt-weekly shrinkage, former critic Stefanie Gans seconding current critic Devra First’s simply put “restaurant reviewers are consumer advocates” take, the James Beard Foundation’s Mitchell Davis calling it “a brilliant critique of restaurant criticism,” Pete Wells getting defensive with Mitchell Davis, and John Birdsall chiming in from a parallel universe where the internet doesn’t exist and marketing spend is altruistic: “All we need for a thriving culture of food critics with onramps for new writers is for all of us to pay for newspapers and classifieds, and for chefs and restaurateurs to take out display ads in print publications instead of paying for PR and IG influencers. That's it.” That’s it.
And that’s it for today.
I’ll see you here Friday for next Family Meal.
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