Sarasota restaurant charges ‘COVID-19 Tax’ to help with food expenses

Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 8:56 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - When you dine at Tarpon Bay Grill and Tiki Bar you might see a “COVID-19 tax” on your receipt

The restaurant, located at 7150 North Tamiami Trail in Sarasota, has been doing this since they reopened in May to help keep them afloat.

When a receipt with the COVID tax was posted to social media, many thought the tax was because of extra sanitation.

Tarpon Bay Grill owner Terri Pulaski says the COVID-19 charge is not a cleaning fee but a meat fee.

“This has nothing to do with cleaning fees ... It has to do with the increase of just buying products. And I thought, I was talking to my vendors it would be a temporary thing," she says.

But it has not been so temporary.

Pulaski says the price of meat went up nearly 300%. Instead of raising prices, she would charge 2 dollars per protein.

“Hamburger, when COVID first hit went from $1.79 ... to almost to $6,” she explains.

According to Knickole Barger, owner of Knicks Taven in South Village, other restaurants are also using this COVID-19 tax.

“This has been happening since May. For some restaurants, they’ve been adding this additional surcharge on the checks and unfortunately, the customers don’t know that ahead of time so that’s concerning to them,” says Barger.

Pulaski says her COVID-19 tax isn’t a surcharge because she lets her customers know before they order.

“We’ve had some complaints here and there. But if a server or manager explains it properly, people understand”

Ever since the social media post about the COVID taxes and the negative attention it has brought to the Tarpon Bay Grill, Terri says she’s highly considering removing the tax and increasing her menu prices.

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