Weekly Update: Shakeup in Gov. Inslee’s Cabinet – How will it affect this session?

Weekly Update: Shakeup in Gov. Inslee’s Cabinet – How will it affect this session?

On February 5, in a move that surprised Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration, the Senate voted to reject the appointment of Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson. It is extremely rare for the Senate to vote to reject an appointment. The Department of Transportation has come under scrutiny for problems plaguing the Highway 99 tunnel project in Seattle, the ongoing challenges facing the state ferry system and, recently, for controversial implementation of tolling on I-405. Following Peterson’s ouster, Gov. Inslee’s Department of Corrections head announced his resignation, citing serious problems in working with the Senate on their recently authorized investigation of early releases of prisoners over the past decade. Both Democrats and Republicans concur that working relationships will be strained for the remainder of the session, making it more difficult to find common ground on difficult issues that require both sides of the aisle to resolve.

Minimum wage legislation still alive in Legislature

On February 1, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee heard a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $12 over four years, require employers to provide paid sick leave based on the Tacoma model, and pre-empt local government from adopting future regulations on wage, leave and labor scheduling issues. WRA/WLA testified in favor of the bill and encouraged lawmakers to pass the bill from Committee in order to keep discussion over the wage and benefit issue alive for the session. On Wednesday, the Committee passed SB 6087, pre-empting local government, except counties, from adopting wage, leave and labor scheduling regulations, and “grandfathers” in those ordinances already in place in Tacoma, SeaTac, Seattle and Spokane. WRA/WLA is grateful for Sen. Michael Baumgartner’s, R-Spokane, sponsorship of this bill, and are committed to continuing our efforts to find a legislative compromise on this issue.

The way to a man’s heart on Valentine’s Day is through a restaurant gift card

Ladies, take note: According to National Restaurant Association research, restaurant gift cards were the No. 1 most desired gift for men, beating out cologne, clothing and chocolate. Valentine’s Day is, of course, one of the really big days of the year for restaurants, with the average cost being $286.56 per dinner for two, and 25 percent of all Americans eating out.

Congratulations to Spokane Chapter Award winners!

2016’s Celebrating Community Spokane Chapter Awards Gala took place on February 8. This year’s industry award recipients were: Dale Piper, The Odom Corporation (Supplier Person of the Year); Charlie’s Produce (Supplier Company of the Year); Mary Cochran, The Hampton Inn (Front of the House); Bob Rogers, Northern Quest Resort & Casino (Back of the House); Jeanette Garcia, Max at Mirabeau Restaurant & Lounge (Bartender of the Year); Arby’s Roast Beef (Quick Service Restaurant); The Boiler Room (Casual Restaurant); and Masselow’s Steakhouse (Fine Dining). Special recognition awards went to Dorene Brown, Rogers High School: Retiring after 25 years of teaching hospitality/culinary and 15 years teaching ProStart; and Kimberly Kamel, attorney-at-law with Witherspoon Kelley Law Firm: For her support of the Spokane Chapter and the countless times she has spoken to the group about employment law issues. Kudos to all!

Industry alert: Drive-by ADA website compliance letters

Last week, the National Restaurant Association received inquiries from five states regarding letters sent to restaurants by Carlson Lynch Sweet & Kipela (Carlson Lynch), a Pennsylvania law firm.  The letters are headlined “FOR SETTLEMENT PURPOSES ONLY” and say that “experts … have identified access barriers” on restaurant websites. In its letters, the law firm lists “compliance failures” and urges recipients to contact the firm as a first step.  Specifically, the letter states that before “engaging outside experts of your own, we invite you to first contact us directly to explore a far more cost-effective and pragmatic approach to resolving these issues.” The firm also encloses a “Draft Settlement Agreement” under which a restaurant would agree to, among other things, “pay certain attorney’s fees and expenses in the amount and in accordance with the terms memorialized in a separate, confidential letter agreement.” Read more…

WRA/WLA pleased that liquor distributors’ pricing bill died with committee cutoff

Liquor distributors introduced a bill this session (SB 6324 / HB 2577) and secured bill sponsorship by leaving out our industry’s position on the topic. Both bills would amend the current laws that allow price differentials to occur for any reason and only allow for price differentials (not lower prices) to occur between on premise licensees and off premise licensees, so long as it is “reasonably” made available to all other licensees. Further, this bill would allow the Liquor and Cannabis Board rulemaking authority to determine what it thinks is “reasonable” while invalidating the lawsuit the WRA/WLA has filed. For these reasons, the WRA/WLA requested that our team vigorously oppose these bills. The WRA/WLA Government Affairs team is happy that both of these bills did not make it past the Feb. 5 policy committee cutoff.

Congress may ease menu-labeling rules

C-stores, supermarkets and other establishments selling ready-to-eat food as a secondary business are lobbying for changes in menu labeling rules to be imposed on all multi-unit food service establishments in December. If H.R. 2017 passes, food outlets will have more leeway in how menu information could be provided. For example, establishments with a high volume of delivery or pre-ordered takeout traffic could meet disclosure requirements by posting caloric information on websites instead of menu boards.

Music licensing bill still alive

Last session, Rep. Kevin Van de Wege, D-Sequim, introduced a bill which would regulate music licensing companies: House Bill 1763. Restaurants and bars may be familiar with these national licensing groups if they play recorded music or have live bands perform in their establishments. The bill lets restaurant owners know what their responsibilities are and requires licensing companies to give notice and lists of music so bars and restaurants can choose what to play. This bill is currently still alive and your WRA/WLA GA Team will continue to pursue this bill and keep you updated.

Gender equity and pregnancy accommodation

This week, HB 1646 (SB 5630) and HB 2307 passed in the House. HB 1646 would amend and enhance enforcement of the Equal Pay Act to protect worker communication about wages and employment opportunities. HB 2307 would amend and enhance the Washington Law Against Discrimination to require employers to provide reasonable accommodations in the workplace for pregnancy, childbirth, and/or health conditions related to pregnancy, unless the employer can prove the accommodation would impose an undue hardship. Both bills have been referred to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. Your GA team will continue to monitor this legislation.

Auburn Wine & Caviar and Twelve Baskets Catering on this weeks DineNW radio show – now online

Don’t miss this week’s DineNW radio show, now online. Co-hosts Andy Cook and Paul Schlienz interview Jim Wilson, owner of Auburn Wine & Caviar. Andy and Paul then chat with John Bagge, owner of Kirkland’s Twelve Baskets Catering.

Washington Restaurant Market Watch: Black restaurateurs find opportunities for growth

It shouldn’t be surprising that there are so many restaurants owned by women and members of racial and ethnic minority groups. Ours is an industry with few barriers to entry, so it’s natural that people from diverse backgrounds gravitate toward operating restaurants. The statistics strongly illustrate this trend. Even during the Great Recession, women-owned and minority-owned restaurant businesses grew at rates well above other enterprises in the overall economy. With February being Black History Month, this is a perfect time to take a look at how black restauranteurs are doing in our industry, and the statistics are very encouraging. Between 2007 and 2012 (most recent data available), the number of black-owned restaurants jumped by 49 percent. Read more…