San Diego restaurant settles dispute over surcharges

Barefoot Bar & Grill says on its website that it offers “local craft beers, refreshing cocktails, burgers, fresh seafood and salads in Barefoot Bar and Grill’s laid-back, waterfront setting.” Not everyone has been happy with the eatery, however.

Lawsuits filed against the San Diego business stated that it was charging customers a hidden three percent surcharge. The city attorney’s office agreed and filed its own lawsuit; a legal action that was settled recently after the Mission Bay restaurant agreed to pay a $34,500 fine.

The eatery inside Paradise Point Resort on Vacation Road was one of 11 area restaurants that received a warning letter from the city attorney about the surcharges. The fees are apparently perfectly legal, but the city attorney and complainants argued that the restaurants were simply not being clear and upfront about the surcharges.

The office claimed that the “hidden” charges violated the state’s False Advertising and Unfair Competition Law. Under California’s Business and Professions Code, false or misleading statements in advertising are prohibited – and the failure to adequately disclose the three percent surcharge apparently violated the law.

Deputy City Attorney Mark Ankcorn told a local TV station that if restaurants want to add a surcharge, they must “make that clear and conspicuous, as big a print as the price itself.”

In a statement, the city attorney’s office said, “It is dishonest, unfair, and illegal to dupe customers into paying a hidden charge after they get the bill.”

According to a news report, 10 of the 11 restaurants warned about the charges heeded the notices. The Barefoot Bar & Grill continued its practice.

Businesses of every type have disputes that must be resolved effectively so that commerce can continue and financial interests are protected. Contact a San Diego law firm dedicated to safeguarding clients in all types of business litigation.