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Politics & Policy

Restaurants can charge service fees, gratuities under new ‘junk fee’ carveout

A bustling restaurant interior with patrons dining, an open kitchen, and a blurred figure walking by.
San Francisco restaurants like China Live in Chinatown would be exempt from a new state law banning service charges if SB 1524 is signed by the governor. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

UPDATE, June 29, 2024: The governor signed SB 1524 into law, which as an emergency statute became effective immediately.

A last-minute bill to exempt restaurants from a new service fee ban that’s set to take effect next week was unanimously passed by the state Senate Thursday.

SB 1524, which aims to allow restaurants to charge so-called “junk fees” if they are displayed conspicuously on menus, now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. The legislation was approved by the state Assembly earlier this week.

State Sens. Bill Dodd and Scott Wiener introduced the bill earlier this month after backlash from the restaurant industry over SB 478, which the governor signed last year. The law was meant to protect consumers from hidden charges tacked on credit cards, bills, loans, air travel, hotel rooms and event tickets.

But lawmakers said they didn’t intend for the law, which takes effect July 1, to impact restaurants. Restaurant owners have argued that these fees made it possible to sustain living wages for staff and boost pay equity.

“Restaurants are vital to the fabric of life in California, and they should be able to cover costs as long as they do so transparently,” Wiener said in a June 6 statement.