Tybee Island restaurant adding ‘COVID fees’ to cover costs

Tybee Island restaurant adding ‘COVID fees’ to cover costs

TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - Many restaurants and businesses have been feeling the brunt of COVID-19 for the last few months.

One Tybee Island restaurant is now trying to do what they can to cover cleaning costs and help out their staff.

Bernie’s Oyster House has added a 15 percent service charge to all bills. The restaurant says they’re calling it a ‘COVID fee’ to help them cover extra costs and demands on the staff.

Bernie's Oyster House has been serving Tybee visitors and residents for years. Marketing Director, Vicki Hammons, says they've always had a service charge for big parties, but with the challenges they're facing they decided to tack it on to all bills.

“We have supply chain disruptions, price spikes, items that are not available and if they are their prices have gone up. We have limited capacity, we have cleaning and sanitation requirements,” said Hammons.

Hammons says when the restaurant got some complaints she was baffled because the restaurant has been very transparent about the charge. She says they hung up signs both inside and outside of the restaurant and have written it on menus.

"We told everyone about it because we intend it to be temporary."

Hammons says other restaurants on Tybee and in Savannah have service charges and that it’s nothing out of the ordinary. The restaurant says they are using 60 percent of the charge for the staff and the rest goes toward restaurant costs.

"We can help ensure that our servers and staff get some kind of compensation no matter what happens with tipping and it helps make up for all of the extra work that they're putting in."

The staff is required to clean and sanitize all of the chairs and tables after every meal.

"Any time they're spending cleaning, they're not serving a table and they're not getting a tip."

Hammons say the restaurant does create their budget by how many tables they can often fit. With social distancing and half capacity, Hammons says it's been hard to afford everything they need.

"When the summer season is over then we're back to Tybee slow normal, so it's not like we can make it up in a couple of months when things ease off."

Hammons says since they only started with the charge earlier this month, they haven’t been able to tell if the charge is balancing out their extra costs just yet.

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