DC restaurant adds 3 percent surcharge to customers' bills due to higher minimum wage, rising costs

- Are rising rent costs across the District forcing restaurants to tack on a surcharge to your tab – or even worse and causing them to shut their doors? A Northwest D.C. restaurant has found a discreet way for patrons to help foot the increasing cost to do business.

The Oceanaire Seafood Room is charging customers a 3 percent surcharge on their bills. On the fine print below the signature line of their receipts, it says:

"Due to the rising costs of doing business in this location, including costs associated with higher minimum wage rates, a 3% surcharge has been added to your total bill."

This was first reported by PoPville.

The restaurant’s manager said the move was mandated by the corporate office that made the decision.

FOX 5 spoke with several city officials about this surcharge, including the District's Office of Tax and Revenue, and they said there is a 10 percent sales tax on food sales, but that is it. However, no one said they were informed or aware about this restaurant's surcharge nor could they tell us if it is even allowed.

Earlier this year, D.C. raised its minimum wage from $10.50 to $12.50 and it will increase to $15 by 2020. 

While Oceanaire has taken a different approach to cover increased costs, there have been many restaurants that have been forced to close up shop.

“Yes, there are some closings, but with that, there are so many new restaurants and there is a lot of excitement in regards to the industry as a whole,” said Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC. “There is always going to be turnover with restaurants and that is why you see so many restaurants continuously looking at ways to change their environment because let's just face it – if something new opens and if there are 50 new restaurants that are opening in the city, the question will be – ‘What are you doing to remain active and relevant in a competitive market?’”

The surcharge here at Oceanaire comes amid Restaurant Week around the D.C. area.

D.C.’s Office of Consumer Protection said a complaint would have to be filed in order to investigate the fee. Officials also said the main issue may surround disclosure and if patrons know beforehand about the surcharge. On the restaurant’s menu, there is a message printed at the bottom about the 3 percent surcharge.

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