Photo by Wally Gobetz.
It’s not the first time a Georgetown restaurant has been unwittingly caught up in a national debate (do a Lexis-Nexis search for Cafe Milano) and it’s probably not the last, but last Friday Filomena was momentarily drawn into the Obamacare wars.
It started with a Prince of Petworth post reporting on the restaurant’s announcement to end its Friday lunch buffet. A sign on the door stated, in part:
As of January, 1, 2014, Filomena has discontinued its Friday Lunch Buffet. We regret we had to make this decision but unfortunately we face new expenses as a result of the Healthcare reform and the Friday Buffet, though wonderful, was not profitable and required extra staff which we can no longer sustain. We regret any inconvenience and on a good note, we will continue our Saturday Buffet and invite you to try our much improved Sunday Brunch Buffet!
Since it appeared that the Affordable Care Act was driving this decision, the conservative rag the Daily Caller jumped at the chance to point out that Obamacare was crimping Bill Clinton’s favorite restaurant. Which, truth be told, is a fair conclusion based upon the sign’s language.
But many started to question the stated rationale. For one, the requirement that a business like Filomena provide health insurance has been deferred for a year. Slate writer Matthew Yglesias pointed out this inconsistency and concluded that the reason Filomena was ending an unprofitable lunch buffet was because it was unprofitable.
Soon, however, Filomena responded to the controversy and issued this clarification:
Even though the Health Care Reform employer mandate of 50 or more employees had to be offered healthcare coverage was postponed one year, Filomena decided to offer that coverage, this year, 2014 and not wait until 2015 as most restaurants have done. We want to offer coverage to our employees but honestly have to find new ways to pay for it since we are so labor intense (close to 90 employees for 150 seat restaurant).
In other words, Filomena made the decision to offer health insurance to its workers even though it was not required to under the law. To do so, they had to trim back on loss leading offerings like the buffet.
Regardless of your opinion on the Affordable Care Act, the fact that nearly 100 food service employees working in Georgetown just got access to health insurance is a great thing! Cheers to Filomena for doing the right thing. We should support them for this by eating there. GM recommends the Neopolitan Ragu!