The Yahoo! Groups Product Blog
- Members: 72
- Category: Restaurants
- Founded: May 5, 2004
- Language: English
Yahoo! Groups Tips
Did you know...
Message search is now enhanced, find messages faster. Take it for a spin.
Show Message Summaries
Sort by Date
Casino Strike in Atlantic City Lingers With No End in
By IVER PETERSON
Published: October 31, 2004
ATLANTIC CITY, Oct. 27 - Pete Boruch is a "Day 1-er,"
a bartender who has been on the job since the first
casino opened here in 1978. He believes that he has
helped build Atlantic City from the ghost town it was
then to the $4.5 billion gambling operation it is now.
That sense of ownership, he said, explains why he and
thousands of other striking casino workers are still
out there after nearly a month. Four hours a day, five
days a week, they bang on tin cans and empty bleach
bottles and yell at motorists to stay away until the
city's longest strike is settled on the union's terms.
"When the casinos came here, they promised us
middle-class wages and middle-class benefits," said
Mr. Boruch, 48, a bartender at the Showboat Atlantic
City. "We're not going to let them take that away from
Workers from seven casinos, including the Showboat,
the Hilton and the Tropicana, went out on strike Oct.
1, and there is no sign the labor dispute will be
resolved any time soon.
The strikers described willingly interrupting jobs
that paid $500 to $700 a week in wages and tips for
the $300 a week that the union, Local 54 of the Hotel
Employees and Restaurant Employees International
Union, pays them for picketing four hours a day, five
days a week.
It has not been easy, they said. They spoke of their
reliance on their spouses to work longer hours, and of
their hopes that their children would understand that
Christmas might be a bit lean this year. What they did
not express was a willingness to give up.
"I used to be completely against unions, and I am not
completely for them now," said Joy Korngut, 31, a
cocktail waitress at the Hilton before the strike.
"But now that I've worked for a multimillion-dollar
corporation, I can completely understand why food
workers and others need these job protections, because
without them, what's to stop the owners from saying,
'Hey, goodbye - we gave your job to someone else'?"
About 600 union members have already gone back to
work, even as union and management remain divided on
two significant points. The union wants a three-year
contract that would put the Atlantic City and Las
Vegas locals on the same negotiation cycle, vastly
increasing the union's ability to threaten a national
strike, and it wants the casino's high-end restaurants
and other attractions, which are subcontractors, to be
unionized, at least after current leases expire. The
struck casinos, which are negotiating as a bloc,
insist on a five-year contract, to avoid giving the
union the power to lock up both Las Vegas and Atlantic
City, and say they cannot dictate labor terms to
subcontractors without losing them.
There have been two bargaining sessions, one of about
90 minutes just after the strike began, and a second
on Oct. 22 that lasted 45 minutes. No talks are
scheduled, and the casinos have been taking out almost
daily newspaper ads and radio spots to paint the
strike as an exercise in empire-building by the union,
at the expense of its members' daily needs.
The strike is against Bally's Atlantic City, Caesars
Atlantic City, Resorts Atlantic City, Harrah's
Atlantic City, the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort,
the Showboat, and Tropicana Casino and Resort. The
three Trump properties, the Marina, the Taj Mahal and
the Plaza, have been skirting bankruptcy and agreed to
the union's demands from the outset. The Sands
followed suit, while the union's contract with
Borgata, the city's newest casino, does not expire
The struck casinos are still operating, although at a
lower level of service, using management staff and the
workers who returned. A walk through the Showboat on
Wednesday showed a few windows that were not as clean
as they should be, and the cocktail servers for the
table games were scarce. But most table games were
elbow-to-elbow at midday on a weekday, and the slot
machines rang loudly with each drop of a coin.
The fuller impact of the strike will be revealed next
month, when the casinos report their October winnings
to the Casino Control Commission. But Leo Troy, an
economics professor at Rutgers University's Newark
campus and an expert on labor-management issues, said
he doubted the impact would be great. The union, he
said, made a big miscalculation.
"The strike has not played to the union's advantage,"
he said. "I think they made a mistake, but I doubt
they'd admit it."
The union spokesman, Chris Magoulas, dismissed the
criticism. "I guess some people would rather believe
what management tells them," he said. He added, "Ask
the people on the picket line."
Kirk Townsel, a cook at the Hilton, said he saved
$2,000 before the strike, which will have to carry him
and his three children until January. But he hopes to
be back before Thanksgiving. He would not, though,
cross the picket line, he said.
"No, sir, not at all," said Mr. Townsel, 47. "We're
standing outside to let the management know that we're
humans too - we have to make decisions for ourselves."
The union increased its strike pay from $200 to $300
last week to help its members hold on, and there are
food banks and social service workers at the union
hall to make calls to creditors. Other unions are also
contributing money and manpower.
"If this was just about the five-year contract, I'd go
back tomorrow," said Dianna Coco-Tischler, 43, who
quit her job as a preschool teacher outside
Philadelphia for a waitressing job at the Showboat
that paid $600 to $700 a week. "But the subcontracting
is the No. 1 thing, and I'll stay out on strike for
that, because those could be our jobs they're giving
G. Patrick Pawling contributed additional reporting
for this article.
Do you Yahoo!?
Take Yahoo! Mail with you! Get it on your mobile phone.
Orlando Business Journal
From the November 1, 2004 print edition
Mighty factions square off over low-wage issue
Amendment 5 pits retail, restaurant industries against
advocates fighting for low-paid workers.
Christine Selvaggi Baumann and Bob Mervine
Florida's powerful retail and restaurant industries
are pitted against a national advocacy group that
fights for low-income workers in an all-out
election-year war that could shape -- or reshape --
pay scales across the state for years to come.
Officials with the two business interests say a
minimum wage hike of $1 -- the sum proposed in
Amendment 5 on Tuesday's election ballot -- would
negatively affect workers, especially during the shaky
economic times after this summer's hurricanes.
They contend the state's service-oriented workforce
would become victims of corporate cutbacks and
layoffs, losing not only jobs but benefits such as
Proponents say the fight is not as much of an economic
issue as it is a moral one. They believe the minimum
wage hike is necessary to help those who work
year-round but still live 28 percent below the poverty
level. They insist Florida's service-sector
environment already is being subsidized by the
government, which is being stretched by low-paid
workers who need assistance with such basic services
as education and health care.
Both sides say the ballot battle is very close.
The most recent polls show less than 55 percent of
voters favor the amendment, indicating that it all
will come down to what some election watchers says is
the key: voter turnout.
Pros and cons
Rick McAllister, president of the Florida Retail
Federation and member of the Coalition to Save Florida
Jobs, a group of a half-dozen industries potentially
affected by the change, calls the proposal a "jobs
killer." He argues that Florida leads the nation in
job creation and that fact proves business is
"Nothing's broke here," says McAllister. "And we don't
need to fix it."
Carol Dover, president of the Florida Restaurant
Association and another coalition member, has been
working for several months to defeat the
constitutional amendment she describes as "potentially
devastating to the industry."
But amendment supporters, who recently completed a
10-day, statewide bus tour, report that voters
overwhelmingly are in favor of the increase.
Floridians for All, the political action committee
lobbying for Amendment 5, is backed by the Association
of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Known by
the acronym ACORN, the group is the nation's largest
community organization representing low- and
moderate-income families, with more than 150,000
member families organized in 750 chapters in 60
"These are people not moving up the ladder and they
are living below the poverty level," says Meghan
Scott, a spokeswoman with Floridians for All.
Minimal impact today
Florida presently does not regulate wages. Instead,
workers are governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
That federal law sets the minimum wage at $5.15 an
hour, an amount that has not been increased since
To date, 12 other states have increased the minimum
wage, including California, Oregon, Delaware and
Maine. Washington pays the highest, $7.16 an hour.
There were 7.1 million workers in Florida last year,
according to U.S. Department of Labor, and the wage
change would affect about 600,000 of them directly or
At $5.15, a full-time minimum wage worker makes
$10,712 a year, based on a 52-week, 40 hour-per-week
standard. That figure is 28 percent below the
government's poverty level.
However, in many cases workers are already making more
than the new amount.
Consider: In Florida, 65,700 maids and housekeepers
earned an average of $7.58 an hour in 2003; 28,300
fast-food cooks earned $6.60 an hour and about 145,700
servers earned $6.50 an hour. About 200,000 retail
cashiers earned an average of $7.39 an hour.
Employees who receive tips also get a $1 an hour wage
hike, but their tip credit has not been adjusted,
which means restaurants still would have to make up
the difference between $3.13 and $6.15 if an employee
does not make money in tips.
Since most employees already make more than minimum
wage with tips, Dover says, the amendment takes money
out of the restaurant operator's pocket without
providing tipped employees any financial benefit.
If passed, the new wage goes into effect in May.
Supporters say the immediate financial impact will be
minimal, even with the "ripple effect" on the hourly
rates of higher-paid workers.
A study, which was done by Robert Pollin of the
Political Economy Research Institute in Amherst,
Mass., and commissioned by Floridians For All,
suggests the average Florida business must increase
its revenue by 1/25th of 1 percent to cover the
Pollin, however, says the impact varies widely by
For restaurants, the ratio of cost to sales goes up
significantly, to 0.7 percent, or 14 cents on a $20
check. Fast food restaurants must increase sales -- if
the employee count remains constant -- by 1.3 percent.
Pollin believes that reducing the number of employees,
however, is unnecessary. "Businesses will be able to
absorb their cost increases through modest price and
productivity gains," the study reads, adding that the
increased pay will lessen turnover and absenteeism and
Other experts are divided on the subject.
Roger Handberg, a University of Central Florida
political professor and department chairman, says
taxpayers have long been paying for what business
owners will not. A wage increase, he hopes, could pull
citizens off public programs.
"Florida is a stage built on cheap wages, and the
system ends up carrying the weight because we
subsidize (through human services) as businesses
unwilling to pay a living wage."
But the Employment Policies Institute, a Washington,
D.C.-based nonprofit research organization, believes
that such an increase will hurt small businesses and
squash opportunities for minimum-wage workers.
"This creates unintended consequences, and you can't
get around that economic reality, no matter how much
you want to," says Craig Garthwaite, director of
Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
U.S. Supreme Court lets Calif. sue Denny's, El Pollo
Loco over vacation pay
NRN Enewsletter 11.1.04
By Alan J. Liddle
OAKLAND, Calif. (Nov. 1) - Denny's Corp. and El Pollo
Loco Inc., after a lost bid to have the U.S. Supreme
Court block litigation by California regulators, now
must defend the companies' vacation-pay policies in
what could be the first of several similar cases
against other firms.
The vacation-pay matter is the latest in a long string
of workplace-law-related setbacks or challenges faced
by foodservice companies doing business in California,
which have included costly class-action lawsuits
alleging violation of the state's unique overtime
rules. In that same category are recent lawsuits tied
to alleged violations of California laws governing
rest and meal breaks, including litigation against The
Cheesecake Factory Inc. that the company said could
cost $4.5 million.
At issue in the Denny's and El Pollo Loco case are
worker benefit trust plans created by employers to
administer vacation pay under the federal Employee
Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. Such ERISA
plans, which commonly c over retirement benefits, are
intended to ensure that workers receive accrued
benefits if their employers go out of business. To
make the plans easier to administer for multistate
operators, they ordinarily are exempt from state laws
dealing with vacation pay and benefits.
But ERISA plans are coming under closer scrutiny in
California, and state Labor Commissioner Arthur Lujan
in late 2002 sued Denny's and its former subsidiary El
Pollo Loco, contending that beginning in 1998 they
violated a state law requiring employers to provide
departing employees with all accrued vacation pay. His
complaint contends it is illegal for Denny's and El
Pollo Loco to require managers to forfeit accrued
vacation pay if they depart within the first six
months of employment or to force hourly employees to
do likewise if they leave their jobs before 12 months
Susan Gard, a spokeswoman for the California
Department of Industrial Relations, said the position
of the state is that Denny's and El Pollo Loco do not
have legally constituted ERISA plans and therefore
their vacation-pay policies are subject to California
law. She said no California law requires employers to
provide vacation pay, but if an employer promises such
a benefit it is treated under state law as a wage that
cannot be forfeited upon severance. Illinois
reportedly has a similar law.
Denny's spokeswoman Debbie Atkins said the Supreme
Court's refusal to act on Denny's court petition last
month was a reflection of jurisdictional matters only,
not the merits of the California case. She added that
her Spartanburg, S.C.-based company, which operates or
franchises nearly 1,600 U.S. restaurants, had no
comment about the California litigation but instead
would "let the facts be addressed through the legal
Julie Weeks of Irvine, Calif.-based El Pollo Loco,
said her company, which operates or franchises more
than 300 grilled-chicken restaurants, mostly in
California, does not comment on pending litigation.
However, she explained that EPL, which was spun off by
Denny's to American Securities Capital Partners LP in
December 1999, "does not now and has not for some time
operated under the auspices of a vacation trust."
Commissioner Lujan's lawsuit seeks a judgment that
Denny's and El Pollo Loco must stop their alleged
violations of California labor laws and return
"unlawfully forfeited" vacation pay and prejudgment
interest to former Denny's and El Pollo Loco workers.
It also asks the courts for "waiting time" penalties
for each aggrieved worker, equal to 30 days' wages.
The labor commissioner's Alameda County Superior Court
lawsuit had been put on hold while Denny's and El
Pollo Loco tried unsuccessfully to win federal court
rulings that the ERISA system blocked California's
jurisdiction in the matter. That quest by Denny's and
El Pollo Loco was supported at the Supreme Court level
through sympathetic friend-of-the-court briefs filed
by the National Restaurant Association, the National
Council of Chain Restaurants and the U.S. Chamber of
The refusal of the Supreme Court to hear the
jurisdictional dispute means Lujan's litigation will
move forward, Department of Industrial Relations
representatives and other parties to the lawsuit
indicated. It also brought a warning from some
attorneys familiar with the case.
"Anyone who operates an ERISA vacation trust plan in
the state of California should review that plan with a
competent ERISA counsel to make sure it complies,"
Mark S. Spring, an attorney for Denny's Corp., said.
He also advised that if a company's ERISA trust is not
in compliance with federal law and conflicts with
California labor regulations, the employer might "be
Spring, based in Sacramento, Calif., is a labor-law
specialist and a partner in the firm of Carlton,
DiSante & Freudenberger LLP. He reported that as a
result of publicity in the Denny's case, "I've been
contacted by a number of lawyers in California whose
clients [with ERISA plans] have been contacted through
various means by the commissioner." The issue of
compliance with ERISA standards by Denny's already has
brought doubtful opinions from U.S. Department of
Answering a request by Denny's for an advisory
opinion, DOL officials in July made this response.
They said that given the information the agency had
been supplied about the restaurant company's
vacation-pay trust, "the department is unable to
conclude that the plan is an employee welfare benefit
plan within the meaning of ERISA second 3(1)." At
issue, DOL representatives indicated, are the amounts
of Denny's contributions to the trust.
Though Denny's voluntarily maintains a balance of
$250,000 in the trust to pay vacation wages as they
come due, DOL analysts said that level of funding
"does not, in the department's view, operate to change
the essential nature of the trust as a mere
pass-through vehicle for the employer's payment of
ordinary vacation wages." What's more, the DOL said,
Denny's contribution strategy does not result "in the
trust constituting a separate fund that provides
genuine protections for the approximately $8 million
in benefits that accrue under the plan each year."
Do you Yahoo!?
Check out the new Yahoo! Front Page.
Philly Restaurant Lovers Are Best Tippers-Survey
Mon Nov 1, 6:18 PM ET U.S. National - Reuters
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York is the best U.S. city to
visit, restaurant lovers in Philadelphia are the
biggest tippers and sunny climes seem to bring out the
most diners, according to new national Zagat Surveys
published on Monday.
Diners in the City of Brotherly Love are kindest to
waiters, as Philadelphia topped the chart with an
average tip of 19.2 percent of the bill, nipping
Atlanta at 19.1 percent.
Seattle was at the bottom of the list of 12 major U.S.
cities with an average tip of 18.0 percent.
More than 110,000 avid restaurant-goers in 41 U.S.
markets participated in the online survey for the 2005
"America's Top Restaurants" guide, while 16,000
travelers, who stay an average of 36 nights a year in
hotels, filled out surveys for the "Top U.S. Hotels,
Resorts & Spas."
Nearly 1,400 restaurants are covered in the guide,
which lists the top eateries in each market and also
groups them by category. The hotel guide covers 1,021
When asked, "What is the best U.S. city to visit?" 38
percent in the hotel guide named New York. San
Francisco was a strong second with 22 percent, while
Las Vegas (6 percent), Chicago (6 percent) and New
Orleans (4 percent) rounded out the top five.
Warm weather seemed to encourage restaurant business
as Los Angeles topped the eat-out list with 3.8
restaurant visits per week among those filling out the
survey there, followed by Miami (3.6) and Las Vegas
Eastern seaboard cities Boston (3.0 per week),
Washington D.C. (2.8) and Philadelphia (2.6) were at
the bottom of the frequency list among the biggest
Do you Yahoo!?
Check out the new Yahoo! Front Page.
Fussy can be dangerous
Orthorexia – an obsessional interest in the quality and purity of
food – can lead to severe weight loss and social isolation, writes
Never before have we been so obsessed with the quality of our food.
We are concerned about whether it contains too much sugar, is too
processed, whether it is genetically modified, organic or not.
Orthorexic sufferers 'devote great mental energy to their strict
dietary rules concerning food purity'
These widespread worries appear to be producing a new eating
disorder. Orthorexia is the expression used by eating disorder
specialists to describe an unhealthy fixation with the purity and
quality of food. This can lead to such an obsession with healthy
eating that sufferers avoid most foods and have their lives
Among the many consequences is a severe and dangerous loss of
weight, though, more often, an orthorexic's fussy demand for nothing
but "perfect" food leads to social isolation, as the sufferer won't
indulge in the everyday dishes that friends and colleagues eat.
You can get a sense of the new epidemic of milder forms of
orthorexia when you try to order a meal with a group in a
restaurant. More and more of us specify particular ingredients or
the strict removal of others, or grill waiters as to exactly how the
dishes are prepared and where the ingredients came from.
But beneath the surface of milder orthorexic thinking lurk cases of
more hardline sufferers, who devote great mental energy to their
strict dietary rules concerning food purity and spend hours worrying
about whether the next meal is going to measure up to their rigid
Dr Steve Bratman, the Colorado physician who coined the term
orthorexia, has now drawn attention to one of the first patients
diagnosed with the condition, who recently died of heart failure
brought on by orthorexia-induced starvation.
Kate Finn, who, like many orthorexics, had some connection with
the "health industry", worked as a yoga instructor and massage
therapist in California, and had been concerned for many years about
balancing the correct proportions of carbohydrates, fats and protein
in her diet. She seemed to move constantly from one "detox" or
healthy eating plan to another.
Although it seems that she died, eventually, from being too thin, Dr
Bratman believes Finn wasn't afraid of being fat, as in classical
anorexia nervosa. The tendency of orthorexics to waste away
persuades some eating-disorder specialists that this may not be a
genuinely new disorder, merely a form of traditional anorexia
nervosa – where young women compulsively lose weight because of a
pathological fear of fatness.
Persaud: 'when was the last time you ate something without worrying
whether it was good for you?'
However, the underlying motivation is quite different. While an
anorexic wants to lose weight, an orthorexic wants to feel pure,
healthy and natural. Failing to understand this distinction may lead
to incorrect treatment.
A study just published by the Institute of Gut Sciences of La
Sapienza University in Rome is the first attempt to measure the
prevalence of orthorexia in the general population. Researchers
found that up to seven per cent of the Italian population suffer
from orthorexia nervosa; intriguingly, it was a misunderstanding of
nutrition that seemed to be the most commonly found predisposing
This is a staggeringly high prevalence figure for a brand new
disorder that did not appear in the academic medical journals until
It is possible that orthorexia is being fuelled by the health-food
and alternative-medicine industry, whose advertising
and "educational" messages stress the vital importance of getting
the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals. This,
combined with burgeoning government and official medical warnings
about the epidemic of obesity, is perhaps producing an unhealthy
hysteria over what we eat.
In the past, orthorexics were probably affectionately referred to
as "health-food junkies", but now, doctors are increasingly
realising that an obsession with healthy food can progress to the
extent where it crowds out other activities and interests, impairs
relationships, and even becomes physically dangerous.
While there might be scepticism among some specialists about whether
we need yet another "new" disorder, it is important to remember that
the well-established and accepted category of bulimia nervosa - the
eating disorder characterised by purging and vomiting to get rid of
recently consumed food, in order to avoid weight gain - was first
described as recently as 1979.
It doesn't seem impossible that the current preoccupation with
healthy eating could be nudging people towards illness, just as a
preoccupation with emulating the looks of a stick-thin model can
nudge young women towards bulimia.
After all, when was the last time you ate something without worrying
whether it was good for you?
Raj Persaud is Gresham Professor for Public Understanding of
Psychiatry and presents All in the Mind on BBC Radio 4
Khaleej Times Online >> News >> THE U.A.E
Sacked waiter wins service benefits case against three-star hotel
By Mohsen Rashid
2 November 2004
DUBAI — The Dubai Court of Cassation ruled that the 3-star Versay
Hotel in Dubai pay Dh8, 000 as gratuity of a waiter, who was
arbitrarily fired. It must also pay 9 per cent annual legal interest
along with the compensation for the arbitrary termination of his
The waiter, who was employed on September 15, 2001 at Dh1, 825
salary plus housing and transport allowances, had filed suit to
receive his gratuity as per his unlimited contract and Dubai
Preliminary Court ruled that the hotel pays him Dh27, 000.
The plaintiff was fired on April 11, 2003 and filed the suit to
receive his dues, which were calculated as follows:
Dh2,434 belated salary for one month and 10 days; Dh7,500 difference
in salary for the last year; Dh2,781 annual leave compensation for
his years of service; Dh4,380 overtime for Fridays and national
holidays during last year; Dh1,825 a month's notice compensation;
Dh5,475 compensation for the arbitrary termination; Dh2,010 end of
service benefits and Dh1,200 for return ticket.
The Court ruled in his favour, but stated that only Dh8, 000 plus
the interest effective from 4th May 2003 to be paid by the hotel for
compensation of the arbitrary termination. Both the plaintiff and
the defendant filed for an appeal.
The Court of Appeal ruled on May 10, 2004 that only the end of
service benefits be amended and upheld the verdict ruled by the
Preliminary Court. The Court of Cassation also upheld the verdict.
November 01, 2004 - 6:14:52 AM PST
Virginia Bass-Jackson: For the love of public service
By Meghan Vogel The Times-Standard
EUREKA -- Eureka City Councilwoman Virginia
Bass-Jackson can breath a sigh of relief this Election
Bass-Jackson, Eureka's 2nd Ward representative on the
council, is running unopposed for her seat. In the
next four years, she's looking forward to seeing
projects the council has been working on come to
fruition, like the Multiple Assistance Center. When
she was first elected four years ago, she said she
wasn't aware that city government often moves slowly.
"I put a lot of myself into the job," Bass-Jackson
said. "I'm one of those people who loves to be busy
and get things accomplished. I feed off that energy.
The more I can do, the better I feel."
The only project Bass-Jackson has seen to completion,
she said, was the disc golf course at Cooper Gulch.
That was made possible by Eureka's Adopt-A-Park
program, which Bass-Jackson worked on with Councilman
Chris Kerrigan, who is up for re-election. Although
Bass-Jackson has publicly endorsed Kerrigan's
challenger, Rex Bohn, she said she has a good working
relationship with Kerrigan.
"They're both good people and dedicated to making
things work for the community," she said.
The councilwoman said she's looking forward to the
election being over.
"This has been such a time of turmoil," she said.
"Next week we should have a better idea of where we're
Bass-Jackson was born and raised in Eureka. Her
father, O.H. Bass, was a former county supervisor. She
still waitresses three nights a week at her family's
restaurant, O.H.'s Town House, where she has worked
for 28 years.
"I'm not on some upper echelon. I wait tables and
clean dirty dishes," Bass-Jackson said. "And I love my
customers. They become like family."
As a waitress, Bass-Jackson has learned how to work
well with people, which carries over to her job on the
"You have to listen when people are unhappy and remedy
the situation without making promises you can't
deliver," she said. "I'm a people pleaser at heart,
and it's best to always go into a situation with an
Bass-Jackson, a former president of the Kiwanis Club
and member of the Eureka Chamber of Commerce's board,
is also proud of her work with Cutten Elementary
School's K-Kids service club.
"K-Kids is really important because it helps kids be
active in their community," she said.
The most difficult issue Bass-Jackson has had to deal
with on the City Council was Calpine Corp.'s proposed
liquefied natural gas project. It polarized the
community, she said. During a public hearing on the
project in March, Bass-Jackson's son, Lance Cpl. Jason
Wattle, called her for the first time from Iraq.
"I had the phone attached to me," she said. "I wasn't
going to miss that call."
Wattle recently returned home from Iraq, and will most
likely be headed to Afghanistan next. Bass-Jackson's
other son, Jared, is a senior at Eureka High School.
She also has three grown stepchildren, Jenny, Justin
Bass-Jackson said she does have "future political
ambitions," such as possibly running for the Humboldt
County Board of Supervisors or State Assembly. For
now, however, she's dedicated to Eureka.
"I'm one of five people helping move the city
forward," she said. "We all realize we're in this
together, and we want to make it a better place."
Do you Yahoo!?
Check out the new Yahoo! Front Page.
Union Mulls Offer In Casino Strike
Strikers Say Agreement Prospects Promising
Union leaders representing striking casino-hotel
employees worked into the night Monday, considering a
new contract proposal that could end a month-old
After receiving the offer earlier in the day, the
contract committee for Local 54 of the Hotel Employees
and Restaurant Employees union met for six hours
behind closed doors.
Applause could be heard coming from the Atlantic City
Convention Center ballroom several times during the
contract committee's meeting.
But strikers who participated declined comment, other
than to say the prospects for an agreement were
promising and that casino representatives were being
called back into the hall later Monday.
Union spokesman Chris Magoulas declined comment on
whether the 500-member contract committee had approved
the contract offer.
The casinos are offering a five-year contract, but
representatives of Local 54 have said they want a
three-year deal instead, so that their contracts
expire at the same time as other hospitality workers
covered by the UNITE HERE union.
About 10,000 bartenders, food handlers, restroom
attendants and housekeepers walked off the job at
seven of the 12 casinos on Oct. 1.
The strike has forced casinos to curtail housekeeping,
room service and restaurant services for lack of help.
Executives and non-union employees have filled in for
the strikers, with dealers working as waitresses and
managers making beds and cleaning bathrooms.
Previous offers made by the casinos were rejected by
the union Oct. 15 and Oct. 22, although no
rank-and-file vote was held on either.
If the contract committee approves the casinos' offer,
it would still have to be put to a vote by Local 54's
Do you Yahoo!?
Check out the new Yahoo! Front Page.
Outback's PAC house
Behind the tasty food and smart marketing, a political heavyweight
plays to win
By SCOTT BARANCIK, Times Staff Writer
Published October 31, 2004
Behind the tasty food and smart marketing, a political heavyweight
plays to win.
The former Elks headquarters in Jonesboro, Ark., seemed like a fine
place to open an Outback Steakhouse, except for one problem: a 1944
county law that forbids businesses from serving alcohol.
Outback didn't let local custom stand in its way. It applied for a
liquor license as a nonprofit called North Hills Hillbillies, hoping
to use a loophole meant for private clubs. When the alcohol board
and an appellate court struck down that gambit, the Tampa company's
political action committee turned to state legislators for relief,
and today the fight goes on.
While much of America fixates on the drama of Election Day,
Outback's 2,700 steakhouse managers and joint-venture partners are
breaking bread with local government officials, tracking legislation
and quietly donating $1.6-million of their own pay to build one of
the country's biggest corporate PACs. Bigger than Boeing's,
according to FECinfo.com. Bigger than Halliburton's.
This is the politics of business. At Outback, it's more than just
giving money to pro-business candidates or Republican Party
committees, though that's where most of the PAC money goes. Whether
the target is Arkansas liquor laws from World War II, or minimum
wage proposals like the one on Florida's ballot Tuesday, what sets
Outback apart from the typical corporate player is its battle-ready
militia at the local level.
Many Outback managers are happy to help. Unlike most chains, Outback
pays them 10 percent of local profits rather than a flat salary. An
extra $10 in profit means another $1 in their pocket, which helps
personalize the importance of wage laws and health care requirements.
Political astuteness is a key to the financial success of Outback, a
company better known for clever marketing (Outback debuted shortly
after the Crocodile Dundee movie phenomenon), unconventional
thinking (most Outback restaurants don't serve breakfast or lunch,
when alcohol consumption and spending is low), and tasty food (leave
your calorie counter at home).
In less than two decades, the founders of Outback Steakhouse have
turned a single Tampa restaurant into a global conglomerate that
features eight chains, $3-billion in annual sales, more than 1,100
locations and about 70,000 employees.
Legislators have Outback's attention. And Outback has theirs.
"When they opened up the Rockford (Ill.) steakhouse, it was an open
house, and they sent invitations to local elected officials to try
it out," said Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Ill., chairman of the Small
Business Committee and an Outback ally. "Now, that's darn good
public relations. Eating a steak is better than cutting a ribbon."
"I wish there were more like Outback," said Lee Culpepper, chief
lobbyist for the National Restaurant Association.
In the Outback Steakhouse world view, politics is a professional
"Government has too big an impact on our business to ignore it,"
said Joe Kadow, who serves as treasurer of the company PAC and
doubles as the company's general counsel and a senior vice president.
It's a viewpoint proudly borrowed from the brain of casual-dining
guru Norman Brinker: founder of Steak and Ale, creator of the salad-
bar concept and mentor to Outback CEO Chris Sullivan and other
A key duty, Kadow said, is to help legislators understand how public
policy affects restaurants.
Restaurants are a labor-intensive enterprise. Last year, Outback's
profits totaled about $2,500 per employee. Microsoft, on the other
hand, earned $94,000 per employee. Microsoft worries about software
piracy and export taxes. Outback frets about health-insurance
mandates and minimum-wage hikes.
In general, Outback's leaders envision a freer marketplace where
prices are set by supply and demand, wages are calibrated to skill,
and businesses offer employee health insurance because they want to,
not because they have to.
"The vast majority of what we do is ask the government not to do
something that they're planning to do to us," Kadow said. "You know,
just kind of leave us alone."
But putting out public policy fires here and there is costly. For
systemic change, Outback tries to elect free-market advocates. More
often than not, that means Republicans.
Through Oct. 13 of the current election cycle, Republicans took home
98 percent of the $452,250 that Outback's PAC donated to party
committees, 97 percent of the $453,551 it spent on national, state
and local candidates, and 100 percent of the $52,000 it gave to the
so-called leadership PACs of top legislators. Those legislators,
such as U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Florida House
Speaker Johnnie Byrd, use the leadership PACs to solidify support
within their party by contributing to favored candidates.
Some observers assume the company is pursuing a right-wing social
agenda because many of the pro-business candidates it supports are
social conservatives. But that's not true, Kadow said; if anything,
Outback executives lean libertarian. "The only purpose of our
political activity is to protect the economic viability of the
restaurant industry," he said.
"You probably will be able to find an example, and I don't want you
to make light out of it, where, you know, "What the hell were we
doing giving money to Jesse Helms?' " Kadow explained. "Well, we
needed him that day."
Still, it is the rare Democrat who gets Outback money. Chicago
Alderman Tom Tunney got $2,000 based on his unusual credentials:
restaurant owner, former chairman of the Illinois Restaurant
Association and lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city of
Chicago for imposing a litter tax on take-out foods.
Outback doesn't support every Republican in every race, however; far
from it. With 34 seats in the U.S. Senate up for grabs in 2004, 435
in the U.S. House, dozens of gubernatorial races and hundreds for
state legislatures, even a large bankroll can quickly spread thin.
For advice, Kadow and government relations director Matt Halme turn
again to Outback's local managers and joint-venture partners; the
National Restaurant Association and its state affiliates; and casual-
dining chains such as Darden Restaurants of Orlando (Red Lobster,
Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze) or Brinker International of Dallas
(Chili's Grill & Bar, Romano's Macaroni Grill, On the Border Mexican
Grill & Cantina, Maggiano's Little Italy).
"Obviously the first question is, where are (the candidates) on our
issues? Second, what committees are they on? What's their ability to
have a direct impact?" Kadow said.
Key committees for Outback include House Ways and Means, which
shapes tax policy; labor and education; small business; and
agriculture. Those in tight races, of course, draw more cash than
Some candidates are a natural fit. Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., earned
restaurant industry kudos and $5,000 from Outback last year after
introducing the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act,
which proposed a legal innoculation for restaurants against obesity-
related lawsuits. Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., received $5,000, the
maximum a PAC can donate for a primary race, two weeks after he
offered a bill that would speed tax writeoffs on restaurant
Outback gives special consideration to candidates who have a
restaurant or farming background, like Tunney. Others include U.S.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., Senate Finance Committee
Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Herman Cain, who made an
unsuccessful Senate primary bid in Georgia. Cain is not only a
former National Restaurant Association CEO but a onetime Godfather's
Pizza and Burger King executive.
Credentials alone are not enough to win Outback's support, however.
The PAC takes few risks, favoring incumbents and avoiding unwinnable
In the Senate, for example, Outback is challenging only two of the
14 Democrats up for re-election. One is Senate Minority Leader Tom
Daschle, D-S.D., whom Kadow said is on the wrong side of an
Outback's closest allies in Congress? In the House: Majority Whip
Roy Blount, R-Mo., Education and Workforce Chairman John Boehner, R-
Ohio, and Small Business Chairman Manzullo, said government
relations director Halme. In the Senate: Budget Committee Chairman
Don Nickles, R-Okla., who is retiring. Kadow also complimented
retiring Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., who "is helpful on a number of
In all, candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives received 62
percent of the $453,551 that Outback's PAC spent on elections
through Oct. 13; U.S. Senate candidates took 26 percent; state and
local contenders got 11 percent; and the Bush/Cheney campaign
received 1 percent.
The $453,551 doesn't reflect donations Outback may have made from
corporate funds in states that permit it, like Florida. Nor does it
reflect direct PAC contributions from Outback managers or their
families, or party donations - Outback's PAC has made $452,250 so
far - that were forwarded to candidates.
"They understand Congress, and they tend to be aggressive," said
U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, a Tampa Democrat who received $1,000 from
Sometimes playing politics means being cagey, such as refusing to
identify precisely which agricultural measure Daschle is
pushing. "Do you really think I am dumb enough to fund his
challenger AND pick a public fight with the guy who may be Senate
Majority Leader after Tuesday?" Kadow said in an e-mail.
A long list of beefs
No public policy is more valuable to the restaurant industry than
the tip credit.
Under federal law, most employers have to pay their workers a
minimum wage of $5.15 per hour, a figure that hasn't been raised
since 1997. But an exemption for tipped workers lets restaurants in
Florida and many other states pay just $2.13 per hour, so long as
the worker makes up the difference in tips.
It's a perfect example of industry clout. Thousands of Outback
employees receive the $2.13 minimum, including servers, bussers,
bartenders and hosts, thanks to the creation of the tip credit in
Along with health care and alcohol policy, it's also one of several
issues Outback tracks at the federal, state and local levels.
Several years ago, when Congress was entertaining a proposal to
eliminate the tip credit, Outback sent company waiters to lobby
Capitol Hill legislators against it, echoing the company view that
raising worker pay would trigger layoffs. Kadow called it one of his
proudest political moments.
A more imminent threat is the minimum-wage proposal due to appear
Tuesday on Florida ballots. If voters approve Amendment 5, the
state's minimum wage would rise to $6.15 an hour, and the minimum
for tipped employees to $3.13.
For a full-time Outback server, passage of the amendment would mean
a $2,000 bump in annual salary. If you believe the Florida
Restaurant Association, it also would mean mass layoffs and benefit
cuts. For Outback itself, passage would mean the average profit per
Florida employee could drop as much as 80 percent.
So, they fight. Outback contributed $400,000 to the industry-
sponsored Coalition to Save Florida Jobs, including $375,000 in
corporate funds and $25,000 in PAC money. Much of the PAC's $100,000
donation to the Florida Chamber of Commerce also will go toward the
Government mandates like the minimum wage infuriate Kadow. He thinks
it would be more effective to help low-wage workers by strengthening
the federal government's Earned Income Tax Credit, which rewards
working parents with cash, at taxpayer expense. And he would rather
boost wages through Outback's Stars program, which gives employees a
share of restaurant-level profit increases.
"How much should the government tell me I have to pay somebody who
can't speak English, who can't read, and who I have to train?" Kadow
said, addressing a similar wage law in Santa Fe, N.M. "It's an anti-
capitalist kind of thing, and to put that kind of instruction into a
market economy, I don't understand it." Outback does have a strong
presence in states that have higher minimum wages, including
California and Washington.
Alcohol laws are a knottier issue.
Outback doesn't want a repeat of its experience last year in Muncie,
Ind., where a car crash involving an intoxicated customer led to a
$39-million jury verdict against the company (Outback has appealed).
At the same time, Outback wants liquor to flow freely at its
restaurants. Booze is the most profitable item on the menu.
This conundrum hasn't stopped Outback from seeking the right to
serve alcohol in historically dry locales such as Jonesboro, Ark.,
where it invested $5,000 in a group called Citizens for a
Progressive Arkansas, or Rankin County, Miss., where it spent
Nor has Outback shrunk from fighting to serve liquor on Sundays in
Rock Hill., N.C., kill expensive alcohol permits in Killeen and
Mesquite, Texas, or repeal a South Carolina law that requires
restaurants there to serve alcohol from airplane-style minibottles.
"Outback's critical all the time in political circles," said Tom
Sponseller, president of the Hospitality Association of South
Carolina. "You want them as a partner."
Meanwhile, Outback is working hard to reduce its alcohol-related
liability. One priority is to eliminate state laws like Indiana's,
which holds restaurants legally responsible for the actions of
intoxicated customers. Another is to fight attempts by groups such
as Mothers Against Drunk Driving to make states lower the legal
blood-alcohol limit for drivers.
"MADD's program has really become, "Impairment starts with the first
drink,' " Kadow said. "I think there's a difference between you
going out to dinner and sharing a bottle of wine with your wife and
some friends, and somebody who . . . has had previous arrests when
they were ridiculously over the limit."
A more effective way to reduce drunk driving, Kadow said, would be
to impose more severe penalties on repeat offenders and those with
especially high blood-alcohol counts. All totaled, Outback's PAC
spent at least $77,000 on alcohol-related issues through Oct. 13.
Health care is another albatross. Though Outback offers coverage to
all employees who work 25 hours or more per week, it opposes
Today, Outback is aiming its guns at Proposition 72, a California
ballot initiative that would require many employers in the state to
provide meaningful health insurance or pay a health tax. Outback's
PAC donated $60,000 to Californians Against Government Run
Healthcare, its California managers contributed $60,000 more, and it
will spend roughly $250,000 in corporate funds, Kadow said.
Insurance isn't Outback's only health-related bugaboo. In Washington
state, Outback is seeking to repeal a new ergonomics law. In Maine,
it helped defeat a bill that would have required large restaurant
chains to include nutritional data in their menus.
Even when the bill's supporters offered a watered-down version that
would have required only a calorie count next to each menu item, the
powerful lobbyist Outback helped bankroll refused.
The government needs to leave business alone.
"My charge was plain," said Jim Mitchell, a nephew of former Senate
Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine. "Kill the bill."
-- Times staff researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.
Scott Barancik can be reached at barancik@... or 727 893-
Founder of Hooters restaurants accused of evading income tax
Knight Ridder News
TAMPA, Fla. - The founder of the Hooters restaurant chain,
Lynn "L.D." Stewart, failed to pay millions of dollars in federal
income tax, according to authorities.
An indictment made public in the U.S. District Court in Tampa
accuses Stewart of two counts of tax evasion and two counts of
filing a false tax return.
Stewart failed to pay $1.7 million in income taxes for 1997 and $2.3
million for 1998, the indictment states. He earned $12.1 million in
taxable income in those two years, but he declared $910,044,
according to court documents.
The maximum sentence on the tax evasion charges is five years in
prison for each count and three years for filing a false tax return.
Stewart's lawyer, Anthony LaSpada, said Friday that Stewart will
fight the charges "all the way to the end."
LaSpada said Stewart simply followed the advice of an accountant who
set up a web of offshore trust accounts that concealed his income
from the Internal Revenue Service. Stewart was told the system was
legitimate and has since hired new financial advisers, LaSpada said.
"Mr. Stewart relied on the advice of his certified public
accountant," LaSpada said. "We will be able to show that."
Stewart's case is part of a nationwide crackdown on abusive and
fraudulent offshore trusts, a push that began in the late 1990s.
Those trusts, and related offshore financial maneuvers, account for
one of the largest losses of tax revenue each year, experts say.
It's not illegal for Americans to move money into offshore accounts,
but anyone who opens one must report it to the IRS. And investment
income earned from the assets in the trust - stocks, bonds, real
estate, etc. - must be reported because it is taxable.
Shifting untaxed income into a tax haven without declaring it to the
IRS is tax evasion.
The St. Petersburg Times first reported Stewart's troubles in
February. At the time, Safety Harbor business owner William Tiner
had just been convicted of using fraudulent trusts to evade about
$900,000 in taxes.
Stewart and five other men opened the first Hooters in Clearwater in
1983. The chain boasts about 356 restaurants in 12 countries and 44
states. Hooters of America is a private company and doesn't divulge
earnings. In 2002, Nation's Restaurant News estimated that Hooters
had $560 million in food sales.
The founders sold franchise and licensing rights to Atlanta-based
Hooters of America years ago but kept about 20 restaurants in
Florida, Chicago and Manhattan.
In January, Stewart, the onetime majority owner of the chain, sued
Hooters of America, claiming the company breached a 1995 agreement
to pay him a percentage of annual gross sales.
Why are waiters trying to have the responsibility of paying credit
card charges on their tips transferred to the owner? Tips are not the
owners property. This could easily be viewed as malpractice for the
lawyers who are representing this case should realize that if they
are successful in convincing the courts that credit card fees on tips
are the responsibility of the employer the courts will also
inadvertently be condoning a misconception that tips must also be the
property of the owner.
Tipped employees under the FLSA states that "Where tips are charged
on a credit card and the employer must pay the credit card company a
percentage on each sale, then the employer may pay the employee the
tip, less that percentage."
Tipped employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act,
Fact Sheet #15
Clearly an employer may charge a tipped employee the same percentage
rate on their tips as they must pay. This does not seem to say that
the employer may pass the whole credit card charges onto the tipped
employee. If an employee receives $100 in tips through credit card
charges and the credit card company charges 2.3% it is seems only
logical to assume that the employee must be responsible for his part
of the credit card charges and should pay $2.30. Please note that
Tipped employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act also clearly
states that tips are the sole property of the tipped employee.
Subsequently, credit card charges that may be attached to a tip would
clearly be the tipped employee's legal responsibility.
California along with many other states are claiming that their laws
which prohibit employers from passing the credit card charges onto
the tipped employee are more protective to the tipped employee than
federal laws. A state law may be more protective, however when state
and federal laws conflict the stricter provision must be applied. The
fact is, however, the laws on tips were not intended as protection to
the employees but as protection to the consumer. Unsubstantially
transferring the responsibility of charges on tips to the employer
only obscures who is legally responsible and thus legally entitled to
such tips presented by our public. If employers must bare the burden
of paying charges on tips then they should be legally entitled to
tips. That's clearly what kind of interpretation California and many
other states want and are attempting to obtain for their businesses.
They want their businesses to not only have the responsibility for
tips but the entitlement of tips. How they've actually been able to
get their employees to foot the bill in helping them succeed at this
goal is clearly a mystery. This law is not as protective to the
consumer as federal laws and is clearly a blatant attempt to
disregard federal laws which clearly state that tips are the sole
property of the tipped employee.
States are not protecting the consumer when they encourage their
business to take responsibility for charges that are attached to tips
belonging to the employee. States which claim that credit card
charges on tips are the responsibility of the employer are
inadvertently implying that tips are the property of the employer.
Implying that tips are the property of the employer does not protect
the consumer when federal laws have been enacted to protect the
consumer from fraud by explaining that tips may not become the
property of the employer.
Schmick's Again Offers Free Food To Military
NOVEMBER 04, 2004 -- PORTLAND, OR -- McCormick &
Schmick's will again offer free meals to U.S. military
veterans on Nov. 7 as it commemorates Veterans Day,
the company said.
The seafood dinnerhouse served 15,000 meals last year
and may serve twice as many this year, according to
CEO Saed Mohseni.
"The response to our veterans program has been
overwhelming to date," he said.
McCormick & Schmick's Veterans Day program began in
1999 at one restaurant and has since grown systemwide.
Veterans with proper ID can order the meals off a
special menu, the company said. Those with
dishonorable discharges are not eligible.
Do you Yahoo!?
Check out the new Yahoo! Front Page.
Eager Atlantic City, N.J., casino workers ratify new
By Jacqueline L. Urgo, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Nov. 4--ATLANTIC CITY -- Thousands of casino-hotel
workers voted overwhelmingly yesterday to end a
monthlong strike and accept a new five-year contract.
Union officials said 96 percent of about 6,000 votes
cast at Boardwalk Hall were in favor of the deal,
which gives members of Local 54 of Unite Here a 28.3
percent increase in wages, employer-paid health
insurance, and pension contributions over the five
Workers are expected to begin reporting for their
shifts this morning.
Union members waited in long lines as balloting began
at 9 a.m. But the lines dwindled in the early
afternoon before voting ended at 3.
"I figured the contract would pass, but I wanted my
voice to be heard and to show support for my union,"
said Michele Hartman, 34, a mother of two who has
worked as a cocktail waitress at Harrah's Atlantic
City for three years. "The way this union pulled
together is the reason we are here today voting on
such a good contract."
Thousands of cooks, room-service attendants,
housekeepers, valets, cocktail waitresses, bartenders,
and other service employees at seven casinos walked
off the job Oct 1. On Monday night, negotiators
reached the tentative pact, which covers 10,000
The strike -- the longest in Atlantic City casino
history, and one of the longest nationwide this year
-- became contentious at times.
Round-the-clock pickets, large rallies, and an
advertising blitz urging gamblers to patronize the
five Atlantic City casinos where workers were not on
strike punctuated the labor unrest.
Although the casinos said there had been little or no
impact on their day-to-day operations, it was clear
that the strike had some effect.
In the early days of the walkout, executives made
beds, served drinks, and performed other jobs
abandoned by the strikers. In casinos left without
people to wash dishes, serve food or clean toilets,
buffets with paper plates were set up for hungry
gamblers and public restrooms went uncleaned or were
And while the official numbers are not out yet,
quieter-than-usual craps and blackjack tables, slot
parlors, and baccarat pits in October may have meant
"We're ecstatic the strike is over and our employees
will be coming back to work," said David Jonas, vice
president of Atlantic City operations for Harrah's
Entertainment Inc. "We welcome them with open arms."
The union did not get the three-year deal it had
sought, "but we ended up with a great contract that
gives our members job security, and that was our
ultimate goal," said Al Tabei, a Bally's bartender and
rank-and-file member of the union's negotiating team.
Some members at the vote said they were somewhat
disappointed that the union had failed to negotiate a
three-year deal, which would have given Local 54's
contract the same expiration date as union contracts
in Las Vegas and other gambling cities across the
"I think three years would have given our contract
more teeth," said Debbie Pilarte, 33, a restaurant
hostess at Caesars Atlantic City, "but it's better
than what we had before."
Others said they were just glad to go back to work.
"It was a tough month," said Anthony Trejo, a butcher
at Caesars. "A lot of us got behind in our bills, and
it'll take a couple of months for us to get back on
our feet. But it was worth it to be able to go back to
work with a very good contract."
In addition to Harrah's and Caesars, the strike
affected the Atlantic City Hilton, Bally's Atlantic
City, Resorts Atlantic City, the Showboat
Casino-Hotel, and the Tropicana Casino Resort.
The Sands Hotel Casino and the three Trump casinos had
tentatively negotiated a similar three-year deal just
before the strike. Union members at the Borgata Casino
Hotel & Spa, which opened last year, have a contract
that will expire in 2007.
-----To see more of The Philadelphia Inquirer, or to
subscribe to the newspaper, go to
Do you Yahoo!?
Check out the new Yahoo! Front Page.
Florida tipped workers to $3.13 per hour!
Business owners differ on costs of higher wages
By Jeff Ostrowski
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 05, 2004
WEST PALM BEACH Ñ — Restaurateur Dean Lavallee doesn't
begrudge a pay hike for the servers at his eight area
Park Avenue BBQ & Grille restaurants.
So unlike many entrepreneurs, Lavallee was pleased
with Tuesday's overwhelming passage of the
constitutional amendment boosting Florida's minimum
wage by $1. In May, the minimum wage for most workers
will climb from $5.15 to $6.15 an hour and index it to
inflation thereafter. The minimum wage for tipped
workers, such as waiters and bartenders, will rise
from $2.13 to $3.13.
"They're the heart of my business," said Lavallee, who
also owns Cafe Sole in Jupiter. "I'm happy to share
some of the business' profits with them."
Lavallee said he already pays his cooks and
dishwashers more than the minimum wage, a move he
argues is necessary for any company that wants to
attract good workers.
"I don't know why everybody's so terrified about it,"
Lavallee said Thursday.
But other owners of restaurants and stores aren't so
sanguine. The Florida Restaurant Association and
Florida Retail Federation — two of the state's biggest
industry lobbying groups — say they might mount a
legal challenge to the measure, which was supported by
71 percent of Florida voters.
Kipper Greist, owner of Jumby Bay Island Grill in
Jupiter, said the measure will cut his profits and
force him to raise prices. Greist called the pay hike
so onerous that he's put his expansion plans on hold.
"My plan was to build five restaurants in Florida,"
Greist said. "I'm not going to build any more
Greist said 45 of the 72 employees at Jumby Bay are
servers who will get a $1-an-hour raise. Because
servers typically work 35 hours a week, the amendment
boosts his costs by $1,500 a week, Greist said.
But small business owner Greist isn't alone in his
opposition to the new wage.
Outback Steakhouse and Publix Super Markets were among
the most ardent opponents of the measure, donating
$500,000 between them to the campaign to defeat it.
Darden Restaurants, owner of the Olive Garden and Red
Lobster chains, also was an outspoken opponent.
The state restaurant group warned of a loss of jobs as
a result of the measure, and opponents argue that
raising the minimum wage will force employers to cut
workers to meet higher payrolls.
"I don't want to say there'll be blood in the streets
six months from now," said Rick McAllister, head of
the Florida retailers group. "I don't think you'll see
$10 hamburgers. But I think there will be a very
subtle reduction in opportunities for the people who
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is
investigating whether the group supporting the
amendment fraudulently gathered voter signatures as
part of its petition drive. McAllister said the
outcome of that investigation could prove the basis of
Do you Yahoo!?
Check out the new Yahoo! Front Page.
Halifax billboard joke offends women's groups
CTV.ca News Staff
It was meant to be a clever play on words to drum up business. But
instead, a billboard at a Halifax beer hall has only drummed up
The sign outside the Halifax Alehouse reads: "Our waitress uniforms
were designed back when 'harass' was two words."
Many people in town find the sign offensive, including Irene Smith,
with the city's Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, who called the
Alehouse to complain.
"It's sort of says: 'What's wrong with the good old days?'" she
"The ad promotes the notion that's it's okay to go sexually harass
women," Smith told ATV News. "And quite frankly, the Human Rights
Act says sexual harassment is against the law. You are actually
breaking the legislation to do that."
Although the manager of Alehouse refused to comment when contacted
for an interview, an executive with the company that produced the
billboard agreed to talk.
"Clearly, it's the Alehouse's intent to attract the young adult
audience," CCL senior vice president Chris Keevill told ATV
News. "And we ould hope that customers recognize this billboard in
the manner that it was intended to be: tongue-in-cheek."
Don Shiner, a marketing professor at Mount Saint Vincent University,
says these days, advertisers and their clients are constantly
pushing the envelope.
"It's always questionable when we use sex to sell," he says. But
Shiner says sex and alcohol is a more sensitive combination.
Shiner says it's also interesting that because of the reaction, the
Alehouse will probably receive more publicity than it would have if
the billboard had been less controversial.
Worker Kills Boss When He Tries To Fire Him
NEW YORK -- A 19-year-old man walked into a midtown Manhattan
restaurant and stabbed his manager to death after the manager tried
to fire him, police said.
The employee, whose name was not released, entered Cafe K on East
48th Street at about 4 p.m. Thursday. His manager, also not
identified by police, told him he was being fired, and the two began
fighting, police said.
The employee then stabbed the manager once in the torso and ran off.
He had not been captured as of early Friday, said Detective Eric
Crisafi, a police spokesman.
The manager was taken to Bellevue Hospital in serious condition and
was pronounced dead at about 6:30 p.m., police said.
A Graduate of Law School and the Burrito Cart
By LYNDA RICHARDSON
EAN BASINSKI moves quietly about, making the morning coffee in the
communal office of the Street Vendor Project in Lower Manhattan. It
is not easy to reconcile the many lives of this gentle-mannered 32-
year-old with a shaved head, who is wearing scruffy Birkenstocks and
jeans. He used to sell burritos from a vending cart in Midtown. He
has a law degree from Georgetown University. And before that? He was
a junk bond analyst on Wall Street, a preppy young Republican who
wanted to make loads of money.
When asked about this, he lowers his head, a bit amused. "Vendor
Power" is his motto now. Call him a crusader for the pushcart
Mr. Basinski is the founder and director of the Street Vendor
Project of the Urban Justice Center, which has taken up the vendors'
cause. The project scored its biggest court victory recently when a
Manhattan judge ruled that the city had illegally increased vendors'
fines last year, to as much as $1,000, without warning. The judge,
ruling on a class-action lawsuit filed by the group, ordered a
preliminary stop to the fines and barred the city from denying
licenses because of unpaid tickets. The decision affects about
12,000 vendors in New York. The city has said it would not appeal
the order but would seek to increase the fines legally. A public
hearing on the matter is set for Nov. 18.
Mr. Basinski has a long face, an intense expression and a self-
effacing manner. But he is eager to talk about the court decision.
He says vendors who received tickets may divide about $1 million in
refunded fines when the court issues its final decision. As a
practical matter, he adds, vendors who were fined and could not
renew their licenses would now be able to do so.
"The most exciting thing is seeing the momentum of this movement,
making vendors aware of themselves as a population that could have
some power," he says. "When you go out on the street, more and more
vendors know about us. They know about our workshops. We sort of see
ourselves as a union. We are trying to be a voice for vendors and
have the public see them in a different way, almost like in a
Mr. Basinski started the project, a shoestring operation, three
years ago, financed initially with $15,000 from Yale shortly after
he graduated from law school in 2001. It is part of a coalition of
small projects at the nonprofit Urban Justice Center. The vendor
project has 200 members, and their photographs, taken with a digital
camera, line a long wall. Some smile broadly. Others look somber and
proud. Most are recent immigrants and speak little English.
"They just love to see pictures of themselves," Mr. Basinski
says. "They like being a part of something. Vendors are often alone
on foot. There never was much of a community of vendors."
Vendors pay $100 in annual dues to join and are given a disposable
camera and a tape measure. That way, Mr. Basinski says, they can
collect evidence of their vending operation if they have problems
with the police or store owners.
Despite the recent court success, Mr. Basinski worries about how the
project will survive through the winter. He says the group, which
has a $100,000 annual budget, could lose as much as 80 percent of
that because its foundation financing is expiring.
"It's hard to raise money for vendors," he says. "There's still that
public attitude that vendors are flimflam artists. Maybe people get
them confused with shell-game guys. Vendors don't really fit into
other public interest groups. They don't really fit anywhere."
"We're not going to shut down, though," he adds. "If we have to wait
tables at night, we'll somehow make it happen. We have to build up a
permanent organization or else what will it mean?"
Mr. Basinski comes from a world and a life far removed from that of
many vendors. He grew up in Vienna, Va. His father, an aerospace
engineer, is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel; his mother is a
gerontologist. Mr. Basinski studied economics at the University of
Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business and was in a fraternity.
HE started out in a money-making career. But after two unfulfilling
years on Wall Street, he quit in 1996 and traveled for a year
through West Africa, a longtime dream. "It does change you to live
among people who have nothing," he says.
When he returned to America, he decided he would study law because
of its tradition of social justice. But in 1998, before he dived
into the books, he worked on a lark as a vendor. He wanted to try
out his entrepreneurial skills in New York, where he was dabbling in
photojournalism and working as a waiter. He did not like hot dogs or
shish kebab, but he loved Mexican food. He hawked fresh burritos,
black beans and rice for $4, and chicken or steak for $5, at 52nd
Street and Park Avenue for eight months.
"I sold 63 burritos on my best day," he says with a grin. "But for
every day that was a good day, there is a day that you don't sell
Mr. Basinski says he has passed the state bar exam and is waiting to
be admitted to the bar, but his vision of becoming a business tycoon
is long gone. He lives alone in a pocket-size apartment on the East
Side, with a bathtub in the kitchen. And his burrito cart? It is
tucked in his bedroom. It makes a fine table.
A diner's Tour de France
An American critic and his family eat their way
By John Lehndorff, Rocky Mountain News
November 6, 2004
PARIS - The pleasant glow in my brain started when I
sampled the delicate, crisply-coated, soft-boiled hen
egg with matchsticks of black truffle. It grew
brighter with a smidgen of sensuous duck foie gras
graced with yellow plums from Lorraine. The glow
became a full-blown spotlight during an entree of
seared cod with lobster sauce and tiny squid.
I achieved fromage bliss when the cart with 25 types
of cheese presented a perfectly ripe guided tour of
France. I've never tasted better brie. After seven
enlightening courses from chef Michel Roth, including
a benchmark chocolate souffle, I finally saw the
Like a pilgrim at a shrine, this American dining
critic had a life-changing religious experience as he
sat wide-eyed amid the plush elegance of L'Espadon,
the restaurant at the historic Paris Ritz hotel.
This was where the legendary chef Escoffier defined
modern cuisine and fancy dining as we know it after
the Ritz opened in 1898. Kings and queens ate here.
When the Allies entered Paris in 1945, this was the
first building "liberated" by Ernest Hemingway.
Personal history was why my wife Betsy, son Hans, and
I ate lunch at the Ritz during an October family
vacation in Paris. Betsy had a memorable meal there
with her dad, Dr. Edgar Kahn, when she was an
You'd have to call the surroundings at L'Espadon
"ritzy." The sky-painted ceiling oversaw a dining room
decked out in silk curtains, heavy silverware, linen
napkins, gold leaf and old mirrors. Within those
gilded walls, a perfectly choreographed group of
gifted waiters did a remarkable job of making everyone
feel at home, even three yokels from Colorado.
From the amuse bouche of foie gras terrine with bacon
and roasted chestnuts to the slice of chocolate
dauphinois that sided the coffee and the final, final
bite - a sliver of ambrosial honeycomb from Provence -
it was one of the finest dining experiences of my
It was also, at 443 euros, the most expensive meal
I've ever paid for myself. We were dining on our
savings, not on my dining critic expense account, and
the exchange rate was $1.33 per euro. But we figured:
what's the going rate for historic family moments and
transcendent gastronomic epiphanies?
Tucked away in a small room in a modest hotel a few
miles from the Eiffel Tower, we found ways to
economize and still taste the delights of one of the
world's great cities.
That would explain how we found ourselves at our
neighborhood McDonald's near the Charles-Michel Metro
stop. The Big Mac tasted like a Big Mac, but I became
quite fond of the Croque McDo: two bread circles
filled with sliced ham and melted Emmenthaler cheese.
It's a very tasty variation on the classic croque
monsieur, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. I had it
with French fries and the aioli-like pommes frites
We were also "forced" to settle for outstanding
baguettes, fragrant raw milk cheese, affordable foie
gras, cold cuts and fruit that we ate in our hotel
room. And we sipped the good cheap wine you can buy
almost everywhere from supermarkets to mom-and-pop
We made regular treks to the local Monoprix store that
was a supermarket on the first floor and a department
store on the second. It also included a bakery,
florist, big wine section, cheese and fish counters,
20 varieties of yogurt, and prepared food, including
12 terrines and confits. Some of the stock items were
familiar, such as Kellogg's Miel Pops (Sugar Pops),
individually wrapped sliced burger cheese, Texas
Barbecue Pringles, Smirnoff Ice, Buitoni canned
ravioli, and Snickers Ice Cream Bars. And we found a
small jar of peanut butter for about $5 in the "exotic
Our other great, money-saving joy was buying food the
Parisian way by stopping at little family-run
neighborhood shops on the way home from the Louvre and
the Arc de Triomphe. We discovered Monsieur Laurent
Dubois less than a mile from our hotel. The tiny
fromagerie stocks up to 250 kinds of cheese, plus
exquisite yogurt, eggs and butter. This is where
French milk goes after it dies to become Petit Pave
Cendre, Buchette du Quercy, Couronne Blesnoise, Pont
Leveque, and St. Marcellin Affine.
Within a couple of blocks of the cheese shop on rue de
Lourmel we found a charcuterie (similar to a deli), a
wine store, a fish store offering oysters from Utah
Beach, a chocolatier, a place dishing only
rotisserie-cooked meats, a Moroccan bakery, and my
fave: a patisserie and boulangerie selling bread,
fabulous pastries and ready-made meat-and- cheese
sandwiches. A fruit and vegetable shop offered figs,
blond pomegranates, fresh dates, and even fresh
The sport of coffee
Occasionally, the family splurged on dessert and
coffee. One afternoon we visited one of the world's
most famous pastry shops, Pâtisserie Pierre Hermé at
72 rue Bonaparte. Chef Herme considers himself a
culinary designer, so he introduces both a spring and
fall dessert collection. Each gold leaf-garnished,
architecturally interesting dessert is arrayed under
glass like diamond jewelry.
Going out for coffee is a professional sport in Paris
and we played hard. In the French capital, coffee is
"cafe," which means espresso. It costs you a couple of
bucks to buy a tiny squirt of great java that you
nurse for 30 minutes or more. Free refills and
coffee-to-go were as impossible to find as escalators
in the Metro stations.
The real purpose of coffee was to sit al fresco in
tiny chairs that always face out from Paris'
streetside cafés, whether they are near Notre Dame or
a nondescript neighborhood. You sip and watch the
parade of well-dressed Parisians wearing scarves,
hauling baguettes, and walking their little dogs.
There is no French dietary paradox, even though the
citizens do eat a lot of cheese, chocolate and bread.
Cars, gas and parking are ludicrously expensive, so
they walk everywhere.
In my limited visit, it appeared food is much less of
a big deal for the French than I expected. They expect
to eat well, but don't ooh and aah over cuisine the
way we do. This is, after all, the city where the
first restaurant that was called by that name opened
in 1765. Dining and drinking coffee, wine, beer and
cognac are just excuses to get together and talk. It's
seldom an end in itself. Given how tiny most Paris
apartments are, bistros serve as the neighborhood
living and dining room.
Sampling the classics
I enjoyed getting to eat at the bistros and brasseries
of Paris because I was finally able to sample the
classic dishes that have filled Denver restaurant
menus in recent years. At Cafe de la Mairie in Place
St. Sulpice I enjoyed a perfect ham and Gruyere
omelette. Another day we waited out the beeping rush-
hour traffic at Le Carousel bistro, nibbling on a
quintessential croque madame sandwich crowned with a
At the 80-year-old Bistrot Linois, we enjoyed real
onion soup with a heady broth. It had a small cheese
crouton but it wasn't smothered under a mass of molten
cheese. We also sampled a super half-cooked (mi-cuit)
steak tartare with frites that tasted like they were
fried in beef fat.
Stopping for a bite and a sip were an absolute
necessity during kilometers-long forced marches
through diverse museums and huge buildings named after
old dead guys. After viewing van Gogh's electrifying
self-portrait and other profound impressionist
classics by Gauguin, Matisse and Monet, we snacked on
pizza-like toast (tartine tomatoes mozzarella au
pistou) in the café at the Musee D'Orsay.
We lolled for two perfect hours under fig trees in the
ornately decorated patio of La Mosquée de Paris near
Paris' botanic gardens sipping sweet mint tea and
nibbling honey and almond pastries.
After watching mobs stampede toward the Mona Lisa
while ignoring 500 years of other incredible art
around them, I calmed myself with a Caesar salad with
poached chicken at Le Ragneau, a bistro near the
As a noted American pie expert, I had to visit La
Maison des Tartes as soon as I read about it. This
18-seat house of pies is tucked in a tiny storefront
on a narrow winding street. Virtually all it offers
are savory and sweet tarts. You can get a wedge of
dinner tart, a slice of sweet tart and a beverage for
8.40 euros. As The Beatles' Michelle played in the
background, we nibbled on buttery tart au boeuf au
curry and a chocolate tart with sliced banana.
Opened in 1896, Restaurant Chartier is a historic
monument that seats hundreds and dishes big,
affordable portions of brasserie fare, including
grilled sardines, veal tongue, and boeuf
bourguignonne. The food arrives quickly. Our waiter, a
30-year Chartier veteran, told us we had to add up our
bill on the white paper tablecloth and tell him the
This two-week excursion provided my son with an
opportunity to expand his already wide culinary
horizons. He took the opportunity to order escargot
every time he could. He also appreciated the French
way with hot dogs. On the second level of the Eiffel
Tower, we watched as the snack bar guy stabbed a
baguette on a wide round spike, squirted mustard in
the hole, slipped in two hot dogs and heated it with a
coating of gruyere.
Hans also developed a severe craving for Nutella, the
silky milk chocolate and hazelnut spread that is
layered on bread and warm crepes at streetside
windows. We finally had to cut him off.
It wasn't all perfection
All this culinary adventure didn't mean that every
bite was exquisite. We had a horrible lunch with
terrible service at Le Club Versailles, a tourist trap
across from the train stop at Versailles outside of
Paris. Lal Qila is an exceptionally pretty Paris
restaurant serving thoroughly mediocre Indian food.
And we sampled less-than-yummy pizza twice as well as
perfectly ordinary Chinese and Lebanese fare.
Other irritations included the 15 percent tip most
eateries added to the bill. Even if the meal was a
dog, you still had to tip. Speaking of dogs, they are
allowed in even quite nice restaurants and they are
prone to yip and yap. It also seems like everybody
smokes in Paris, especially in eating establishments,
no matter how small or closed in.
On the whole, the restaurant service was decent in
Paris in large part because the waiters are
professional. Never once did I hear one of them say
"Bonjour. My name is Francois and I'll be your waiter
tonight." They simply took the order.
This is where my encyclopedic knowledge of French
culinary language came in handy. I knew right away
what was in an "omelette" and a "crème brulee."
Actually, if you try to speak a little French, they
will try to speak a little English and meet you in the
The night before we left Paris we did one final load
of laundry at the neighborhood lavagerie. We picked up
a snack at a nearby Lebanese eatery, including some
stellar baba ganoush. I decided it would be unwise to
eat lambs' brains in tomato sauce before our nine-hour
flight to Atlanta.
It's a joy to be home where I can get endless coffee
refills and ice in my Diet Coke. I won't miss the
gender-specific nouns, the itty bitty accommodations,
and the lack of water pressure in Paris. On the other
hand, I'd go back to Europe in a heartbeat. Even now
the memory lingers of the roasted chestnuts we ate in
line at the Musee D'Orsay.
I'll never look at restaurants in quite the same way
again. No matter what I'm obliged to eat in the line
of duty, I'll always have Paris.
John Lehndorff is the dining critic;
lehndorffj@... or 303-892-5103.
Do you Yahoo!?
Check out the new Yahoo! Front Page.
Service, retail to lead area in jobs
By BILL GRIMES, Daily News
Those who think the United States can revive its sagging
manufacturing base may want to think again after perusing statistics
from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Dennis Hoffman, a labor economist for the Illinois Department of
Employment Security, shared the bureau's stats with local
businesspeople at the monthly First Friday luncheon sponsored by the
Greater Effingham Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
None of the occupations expected to grow the most through 2012 could
be remotely considered manufacturing jobs, though several categories
are potentially high-paying. Others are low-end service jobs that
might employ people who, a generation ago, might have secured an
entry-level position at a unionized factory.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States
will need 623,000 new registered nurses, 603,000 post-secondary
teachers and 596,000 retail salespeople in the next eight years.
Other job classifications in the top 10 include customer service
representatives, with 460,000 needed in the next eight years; food
preparation/serving (excluding waiting tables), 454,000; cashiers,
also 454,000; janitors/cleaners, 414,000; general and operations
managers, 376,000; waiters/waitresses, 367,000; and
Hoffman said labor statistics for Effingham reflect the demise of
American manufacturing. In 1997, he said, the city had 6,150 people
employed in manufacturing, compared to 4,350 in service-related jobs
and 4,120 in retail trade.
But in 2003, the service and manufacturing sectors flip-flopped.
That year, 6,290 were employed in service-related jobs and 4,390 in
retail trade, compared to 4,580 in manufacturing. That doesn't count
the 600-plus jobs lost earlier this year at the Quebecor World
printing plant in Effingham.
Hoffman said there's jobs to be had, just not in the fields that are
traditional to Effingham. The state's Critical State Shortage
Initiative shows that workers are needed in health care, warehousing
and transportation, construction, education and business services -
especially those that are computer or technology-related.
Despite the sting of layoffs in recent years, Hoffman told business
leaders the future looks bright for such a progressive community as
"I think you have a good future, just like you've had a wonderful
past," he said.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 132 or
No trouble in Tijuana
The world's largest border town boasts sophistication, culture and
gourmet cuisine. No, really.
By Marla Jo Fisher
The Associated Press
Updated: 3:51 p.m. ET Nov. 6, 2004
TIJUANA, Mexico - Quick. Tell me the first thing that comes to your
mind when you think of Tijuana.
Yeah, that's what I used to think, too.
But I have had a vision of another Tijuana, and it's not what you
might expect. This is a Tijuana of gourmet restaurants, fancy
hotels, museums and even opera.
OK, I didn't actually go to the opera. But, hey, I could have. It
was right there. Donizzeti's "Don Pasquale," presented by Opera
Tijuana. Right downstairs from where I was touring the museum in the
city's beautiful cultural center.
So. Maybe you'll still go to Tijuana because your visiting Aunt
Betty wants to buy some Mexican crafts. Or to sample some nightlife.
But now you can eat well, too.
Usually, on my frequent trips to Baja California, the instant I
cross the border my car turns itself onto the toll road south toward
Ensenada and the peninsula's beautiful beaches. I never even slow
the car as I cruise through Tijuana, one of Mexico's largest cities
at 1.8 million.
But, this time, I decided to stay over, because a group of Baja-
loving friends I'd met over the years were getting together at an
event at the Tijuana Cultural Center and then having dinner.
It sounded too good to pass up.
And I decided that perhaps, over the years, I have given short
shrift to this 175-year-old city, founded in 1830 when it was part
of a cattle ranch known as Rancho de Tia Juana (Ranch of Aunt Juana).
See the other side
Because it's the "world's largest border town," with the busiest
border crossing in the world, most Americans think of Tijuana as a
place to go shopping and experience the seamier side of life. For
many, it's the only experience they'll ever have of Mexico.
That's a shame, because the Tijuana that most people see when they
park and walk across the border, with its grimy streets, hustlers
and shops catering to Americans, is only a small, distorted window
into a vibrant, fascinating, often elegant Mexican culture and its
This time, I was happy to be seeing yet another side of the city.
As it was a long drive for a day trip, I decided to throw in a night
at the Camino Real hotel, in the heart of Tijuana's business
My friend Ana Venegas accompanied me. We drove down from Orange
County and crossed the border on a Saturday night, heading to the
Zona Rio, or River Zone, which is the city's financial and business
It wasn't hard to find the Camino Real once we got to the Zona Rio,
as it was the only hot-pink high-rise in sight.
We pulled into the self-service parking garage at the hotel, and in
about four seconds, a fancy-uniformed bellman pulled up with his
big, brass rolling cart to carry our luggage to our rooms.
We rode a long escalator up to the lobby, which gave us plenty of
time to admire the attractive modern architecture that is a
trademark of Camino Real hotel chain.
A man in a hot-pink uniform checked us in quickly, and we went up to
the room, which was nice, but nothing to write home about, except
for the gleaming marble bathroom that looked like something out of
After a break, we came down to the lobby again and took a taxicab to
La Diferencia, a restaurant recommended to me.
From the outside, and in the lobby, it doesn't look that unusual: a
lovely neocolonial Mexican restaurant with antiques, tile mosaics
and a mock courtyard, complete with real birds in cages singing from
the rooftops, that gave the impression of sitting outdoors.
Instead of the ever-present mariachis, a fixture of Mexican tourist
establishments that I find nearly always too loud, a classical
guitarist, Daniel Arcos from Veracruz, roamed and gently serenaded
But it was the menu that was really different.
After 28 years of visits to Mexico, I thought I'd had every type of
margarita imaginable. But I was wrong. I never had a tamarind
margarita, which was what our waiter, Rudolfo, was recommending. The
tamarind margarita's sweetness was toned down by salt-and-chili
powder around the rim. We also ate grilled crocodile and crepes
filled with corn fungus.
Other choices included duck in tamarind sauce, squash blossom
pudding, tongue casserole, beef heart fillet in garlic and squid in
For dessert, we had practically transparent crepes with hot, real
caramel sauce over ice cream that I can still close my eyes and
Our bill for three hours of fine dining, several margaritas and
dessert: $58. I was liking Tijuana better Our bill for three hours
of fine dining, several margaritas and dessert: $58. I was liking
Tijuana better all the time.
Other folks might have gone dancing or explored more of upscale
Tijuana, but after our tasty and relaxing meal, Ana and I were happy
to hit our big, deliciously comfy beds for the night.
Experience the culture
In the morning, the gathering of my Baja buddies began a few blocks
away at the Centro Cultural Tijuana, so we walked past the Plaza del
Rio shopping mall with its multiplex theater (where later that
morning a fashion show would be held) to get there.
The city's cultural center is a beautifully designed complex of
adobe-colored stone, dominated by a giant orb with a massive
sculptured head that holds an Omnimax theater. The complex also
includes a huge plaza, a fountain, a sculpture garden, a reading
hall, a bookstore, a video theater and the Museum of the Californias.
The museum has an interesting mix of ancient Indian, colonial and
seafaring artifacts over several floors.
After a wine tasting in the center's sculpture garden, we headed to
the elegant and new Palmazul, a restaurant that's been garnering
Because it was Sunday, streets in this business district that would
normally be teeming with life were quiet and sedate.
To me, the biggest appeal of Palmazul, which is dedicated to the
cuisine of Baja California, was its spectacularly beautiful dining
room and bar. The lobby floor, of polished concrete, has a painted
mural of Baja.
The bar has a backlighted diorama of the nearby rocky wilderness
called La Rumorosa. The elegant dining room is decorated with 100-
foot-long mural replicas of the famous cave paintings of Baja,
particularly San Francisco, a mountain range in central Baja known
both for its inaccessibility and fascinating prehistoric rock art.
I've always wanted to visit the caves there, but the arduous trip,
involving a harrowing boulder-infested road, and a long overnight
trek on mule back, has discouraged me.
It was much easier just to walk into Palmazul and admire the
reproductions there while dining on unusual delicacies such as
venison burrito appetizers and drinking wines from local Baja
We spent $43 each on our dinner, which included fresh oysters,
clams, ceviche, shrimp, grilled fish and flan.
I was only sorry that I couldn't stay one more night, so I could
have sampled more of the local winery's production.
If you go
GETTING THERE: From California, Tijuana is accessible via the San
Ysidro and Otay Mesa border crossings. You can walk, drive or take a
tour bus into the city.
GENERAL INFORMATION: Tijuana Tourism Board, (888) 775-2417
ON THE NET:http://www.seetijuana.com/
Warrant Out For Restaurant Owner For Denying Service To Blind Couple
THOMAS W. KRAUSE, tkrause@...
Tue Nov 23, 2004 Tampa Bay Online
TAMPA -On a Thursday evening in May, Lyn Latham Cooper was shocked
when the owner of a barbecue restaurant told her she and her 7- year-
old golden retriever, Rena, would have to leave his establishment.
``I figured he was just being stupid,'' Cooper said Monday. ``My dog
wasn't doing anything.''
Shortly after the incident, restaurant owner Rodney Lopez was
charged with denying rights to a disabled person.
Cooper is blind, and Rena is a Seeing Eye dog.
State, federal and local laws require business owners to admit guide
If convicted of the second- degree misdemeanor, Lopez faces up to 60
days in jail.
DIAMOND ICE CO.
By Gabriella Gershenson
DIAMOND ICE CO.
556 RIVER AVE. (BETW. 149TH & 150TH STS.), BRONX, NY
No ice, please." This is what my mother says when a waiter fills her
water glass. That's because she's European, and Europeans do not
take ice in their drinks the way Americans do. My acquaintance who's
a Russia scholar chuckles at the country people's quirk of drinking
water lukewarm, and the only friend who understands why I keep my
Brita outside of the refrigerator is Rita, who is Indian.
I set out on this line of thinking in preparation for a visit to
Diamond Ice Co., one of the biggest ice vendors in New York City. I
wondered if I would find out why Americans like their drinks cold,
and when did we start requiring ice in them, anyway? On my way to
interviewing distribution manager Les Hendler, a 20-plus year
veteran of the ice business, I was excited by the idea of meeting an
ice scholar who might have answers to questions I never before
thought to ask.
Diamond Ice headquarters is just across the street from the Bronx
Terminal Market, near Yankee Stadium. The company relocated a few
years ago from a 6,000-square foot space on W. 16th St. to a
warehouse twice that size. It's large enough to hold a fleet of
delivery trucks, chambers that make 300-pound blocks of ice and a
freezer bigger than most Manhattan supermarkets to store the bags of
ice produced in Mamaroneck.
Hendler's office is a pre-fab loft that allows a bird's eye view of
the facility. Seated behind a large desk, he appears casual in a
soft blue button-down shirt and faded jeans. Hendler has broad
shoulders, thinning hair and hawkish features. Although there are no
ashtrays in sight, the room smells like old cigarette smoke.
"We're at the mercy of Mother Nature," says Hendler in a gravelly
voice. Diamond Ice's main business takes place in the summer months
between late May and Labor Day, and fluctuations in external factors—
mainly the weather—are immediately reflected in sales. Sometimes
it's good. The 2003 blackout brought a flurry of retail business—"We
made out well. Police were here for protection and crowd control."
And sometimes it's not. "On a rainy Saturday in July we will lose 90
percent of our sales," says Hendler. "This past summer was the worst
summer I've seen in the ice business. Let me put it this way: I
don't think we had one 90-degree day."
During a hot summer, the demand for ice is high. In addition to
deliveries, Hendler has a significant walk-in business. He sells
shaved ice vendors 50-pound blocks, and caters to a steady stream of
customers buying for picnics and the beach.
"On a hot Saturday you can't come near this place. There's cars and
vans every which way. What we did in a month [in retail] the first
July we do in one day in July now. No one knew we were here. Now we
Sales taper off in the winter months, but Hendler still manages to
run a consistent business. Right now, Diamond Ice makes more than
100 deliveries a day, seven days a week, taking ice cubes to hotels,
corporate cafeterias, caterers, delis, bodegas and private
residents, as well as dry ice to hospitals, dermatologists and
"I'm always haggling with secretaries over dry ice that we're
charging too much, and I say who are you kidding? You probably make
$30,000 from a $50 block of ice and you're haggling over $2?"
Hendler was not the ice historian I had hoped for, but he did
provide ample insights into today's ice trade. He expresses
frustration over having to explain its value. "Some guy says to
me, 'You're seriously charging me $8 for a bag of water?' Yeah, but
the $30,000 truck that brings that water and the driver of the
truck, that doesn't count."
To understand more about America's sense of entitlement to ice, I
picked up Gavin Weightman's 2002 book The Frozen Water Trade. I
learned that, pre-refrigeration, a vast, organized natural ice trade
originated in early 19th-century America. New England businessman
Frederic Tudor cut ice from frozen rivers and lakes, packed it in
sawdust and shipped it to warm locales like India, the West Indies
and the South. By the 1840s, lake and river ice was being delivered
all over America. An 1880 "ice census" reported that New York City
was by far the number one consumer of ice at 956,000 tons a year,
and at 354,000 tons Brooklyn rivaled Boston and Philadelphia.
For many years, ice was harvested from the Hudson River until, in
the early 20th century, it became too polluted. Ice was used in
homes, hotels, dairies, butchers, hospitals and for floating in
drinks. (The trend was introduced in Europe at the same time but
didn't catch on.) New Yorkers were still consuming natural ice up
until WWI. According to Weightman, once Americans developed a taste
for ice, it never went out of style.
The erstwhile natural ice trade and Diamond Ice may be worlds apart—
manufactured ice is what eventually put the natural ice trade out of
business—but one thing remains the same. Both industries are at the
mercy of the weather. The optimal conditions of the natural ice
trade were a very cold winter for harvesting ice followed by a very
hot summer in which to sell it. (When the Hudson River didn't freeze
over in 1906, the New York Times reported an impending "ice
famine"). Diamond Ice may not rely on Mother Nature to create its
product, but they still rely on her for the demand.
Study: Alcohol lowers men's restraint more than women's (MNDaily.com
Study: Alcohol lowers men's restraint more than women's
By Mehgan Lee
Patrons at Grandma's Saloon & Grill became more and more intoxicated
Saturday night with every resounding chorus of "Cheers!" and dull
thud of plastic cups crashing together.
With the heightened levels of intoxication came lowered inhibitions.
Members of the crowd began belting out lyrics along with the music
played, including Sir Mix-A-Lot's, "Baby Got Back." The dance floor
became increasingly crowded and dancers' moves became more risque,
with sweaty bumping and grinding.
It is a well-established fact that drinking alcohol tends to lower
people's inhibitions. However, a recent study suggests alcohol
consumption lowers men's inhibitions more than women's.
Psychologists at the University of Kentucky conducted the study,
which was published last month in the journal Addiction.
The study also found men tend to be more aggressive and report
feeling more stimulated when drinking alcohol.
Cole Anderson, a history and advertising junior who works in
security at Sally's Saloon and Eatery, said he agrees with the
conclusions of the study.
"(Men) lower their standards when they get hammered," he said. "We
just don't care."
Anderson said he has to kick men out of the bar for starting fights.
However, he said, he kicks out women more often for being too
"They can't handle their alcohol as much as guys can, even at the
same alcohol level," he said.
Nicole Butler, a marketing and business education junior who has
worked at Sally's as a waitress for a year and a half, said she also
agrees with the study's findings.
"We see fights here every night, and it's 90 percent men," she
said. "I've never had to kick out a woman for hitting someone in the
Butler described a group of men that came into the bar Saturday
"They came in and sat down at a table, and they just looked like the
sweetest guys," she said.
But after a few drinks, Butler said, the men were taking pictures of
her on their cell phones and making degrading comments.
"It's just annoying," she said. "It's disgusting. It's blatant."
But Abraham Opoti, a mechanical engineering and math senior, said he
did not know if he agreed with the study.
"I think there's a lot of factors that go into it," he said.
"There's a lot of people who use alcohol as an excuse," Opoti said.
Mark Fillmore and Jessica Weafer, from the University of Kentucky,
researched 12 men and 12 women with a mean age of 22 for their
study. All volunteers were social drinkers.
The participants were given doses of alcohol. To account for the
physical differences between men and women, doses were calculated
based on body weight, and intoxication was measured by blood alcohol
The participants were then asked to play a computer game. They were
instructed to press a button every time they saw a green rectangle —
not a blue one — flash on their monitor's screen, according to the
journal. If participants pressed the blue rectangle instead of the
green one, they were recorded as being more aggressive.
Maja Pranjic, a University of Minnesota senior, said she thought the
study's methods were inadequate.
"I don't think it's a good study," Pranjic said. "It's certainly
interesting. Maybe it's something (the researchers) should look into
Pranjic said that she was skeptical because of the study's sample
size and she did not think the computer game could accurately
measure how a person would actually behave while intoxicated.
Wed, Nov. 24, 2004
TOP OF THE VINE: Laura DePasquale, with some variety at an area wine
shop, is national director of the fine wine program for Palm Bay
Imports in Boca Raton. She also is now a Master Sommelier. BARBARA
P. FERNANDEZ/FOR THE HERALD
She's a master of wine cellar
A Miami Shores woman studies, spits and sloshes her way through a
tough test to reach the pinnacle
BY FRED TASKER
The judges in London poured her six glasses of wine -- unknown wines
that could be from anywhere in the world -- and she had four minutes
each to identify them by grape, country, region and year. And tell
why she thought so.
She must have got at least five of them right, because Laura
DePasquale, 42, a fine wine director who lives in Miami Shores, has
become the first Master Sommelier in Miami-Dade County, the third in
Florida and one of only 106 in the world.
The badge she now may wear, according to the British-based Court of
Master Sommeliers that grants it, ``is the ultimate professional
credential anyone can attain worldwide in the service of wine.''
DePasquale's reaction? ``I look forward to drinking a glass of wine
again for the pure enjoyment.''
She came to despise wine, she says, during the five-week run-up to
the exam. She tasted a dozen wines a day, sipping and sloshing and
spitting, popping antacids for the resulting indigestion, spending
every waking hour reading about wine and the countries and people
who make it.
Besides the blind taste test, DePasquale had to show proficiency in
selecting the right wine glass, recommending wines for various
foods, serving and discussing wine, brandy, liquor, beer and cider
and deftly cutting and lighting an expensive cigar.
The London-based Court of Master Sommeliers was set up in 1977 to
``encourage improved standards of beverage knowledge and service in
hotels and restaurants.''
MUST BE INVITED
Candidates must spend five years in the wine industry and pass
introductory and advanced sommelier courses before asking to be
invited to the Master Sommelier exam. It's a tough one: Of the 13
people from around the world who took the exam with DePasquale, only
three passed. (The other two were the manager of beverage standards
for Walt Disney World and the owner of The Center for Vine Affairs
in Ontario, Canada).
DePasquale, who took the exam Nov. 5-6, learned only five weeks
earlier that she had been selected to take it when another candidate
dropped out. Losing another couple of weeks to the flu, when she
couldn't taste anything, she created her own cram course, tasting
wines from around the world.
''I got to the point of absolutely hating wine,'' she says.
''In the exam,'' she says, ``the wines can be anything -- old, new,
sweet, dry, from anywhere in the world. But they don't try to kill
you. They won't give you something really obscure, like a nebbiolo
from Mexico or something from Bulgaria. But they could give you a
tokay from Hungary.''
Judges told her she passed, but wouldn't say if she got all six
Her guesses of the six wines: a 1998 pinot gris from France's Alsace
region; a 2002 Viognier from California's Sonoma County; a 2003
Sancerre from France's Loire Valley; a 2000 Volnay Premier Cru
Burgundy; a Grand Cru St. Emilion from Bordeaux; and a 2001 Shiraz
from South Australia.
DePasquale is formally schooled in art, not wine, with an art
history degree from the State University of New York at Purchase. It
was when she moved to Manhattan to establish her art career that she
took a rent-paying job as a waitress at the trendy Southwestern
restaurant called Arizona 206, and discovered that wine was a more
Moving to Miami in 1992, she worked with restaurateur Norman Van
Aken, first at his A Mano restaurant in Miami Beach, then as
sommelier/beverage director at Norman's in Coral Gables. There she
helped him win an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine.
Lured briefly back into art, she rented space at the Bakehouse Art
Complex in Northwest Miami, and was persuaded to teach a papier mché
sculpture course. There she worked with kids from Liberty City,
Wynwood, Overtown, Allapattah and Little Haiti.
But wine called again. Today, she is national director of the fine
wine program for Palm Bay Imports in Boca Raton -- supervising 14
distributors of expensive wines around the country.
So far this year, she has traveled to France, Spain, Italy and
Argentina in search of fine wines.
Will she now sit for the world's other top wine exam -- the equally
difficult Master of Wine exam, run by the London-based Institute of
Masters of Wine.
At first she thought not. But she had an epiphany when she was
lunching with a female friend who has the MW degree and learned that
only three men in the world -- and no women -- hold both titles.
``Light bulbs went off. I'm going to take the exam. And I know I'm
going to pass it.''
Harassed Fmr Hooters Waitress Wins $275,000
A federal jury has awarded a former waitress at Chicago's Hooters
restaurant $275,000 in damages after she said male employees watched
her change through peep holes in a dressing room.
Jurors Tuesday awarded Joanna Ciesielski $2500 for emotional
distress and $250,000 in punitive damages.
Ciesielski filed the federal lawsuit after she heard men laughing at
her while she changed at the restaurant in April 2001.
The lawsuit said other waitresses had the same problem, which led to
sexual harassment by at least four managers and inappropriate
Hooters attorneys say there's no evidence in the case. They say the
verdict will be overturned by the judge.
London Restaurant Pays $52,000 for Truffle
Mon Nov 22, 8:51 PM ET Europe - AP
Europe - AP
ROME - A London restaurant dished out a record $52,000 for a 2.4-
pound Italian white truffle during a charity auction in Tuscany,
regional officials said Monday.
Zafferano restaurant outbid other buyers to take home the delicacy,
said Daniel Pescini, a town official from San Miniato, the village
west of Florence where the truffle was found.
"The truffle had a really good shape," Pescini said "It was rounded
and with no bulges."
The auction was held Sunday evening in a castle in northwestern
Italy. In total, it raised $103,700 for charities in the United
States, Italy and Britain, the Italian news agency ANSA said.
The previous record was set on Nov. 7, when a white truffle about
the same size was sold at auction for $41,000 to New York
restaurateur Francesco Giambelli, who owns Giambelli 50th on New
York's East Side.
Considered a delicacy since Roman times, truffles are a fungus that
forms in symbiosis with tree roots. Italy's white truffles sell for
around 10 times the price of France's black variety.
Getting serious about manners
Dining with grace adds style to a meal
By Ellen Sweets
Denver Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
On Thursday, as we express appreciation for friends and family, we
will also silently give thanks for those who say "pass the potatoes,
please" instead of reaching to get them; for diners who wait until
the hostess is seated to dive into dinner; and for those who don't
overload the Spode, as though the table will run out of food before
it's time for seconds.
We will be well-coiffed and nicely dressed - which, in Denver, means
wearing our best Birkenstocks, a clean T-shirt and pressed jeans for
guys and quite possibly a skirt or dress for the ladies.
Now what? There are way more knives, forks and spoons than you've
ever seen on one table for one person at one meal.
We're not talking barbecue here. Your hosts polished the silver,
ironed the tablecloth, and trotted out the fine china and stemware.
They're entitled to courtesy.
But what are the rules?
They're right there, in the fine print of the social contract, in
the same part that contains "please" and "thank you," just above the
commandment that says "thou shalt not lean back in the dining room
chair, tipping it onto its two back legs, possibly stressing them to
the breaking point."
It includes knowing that the bread plate is the one to your left,
and the water glass is the one to your right, just a little to the
left of the tip of the dinner knife.
Good guests will butter a portion of the dinner roll and eat it in
small bites instead of putting the top and bottom together and
taking a plug out of what is now a bread and butter sandwich.
Too many people have lost sight of manners, according to Ward Sear,
director of Denver's Jon D. Williams Cotillions, an organization
that seeks to make manners an integral part of young people's lives.
In addition to minding the manners of middle and high
school students, Jon D. Williams Cotillions runs the Air Force
Academy's mandatory course in social education, which focuses on
etiquette and protocol.
Academy spokesman Capt. Kim Melchor says the instruction is
important because it helps ensure the development of the whole
"Part of the mission at the academy is to develop young men and
women to to lead our nation," she says. "Not just militarily and
athletically, but to be able to carry themselves socially. So social
etiquette skills are part of their training."
And the earlier it starts, the better it's likely to take. Sear says
his program tries to get youngsters to understand the importance of
manners so they will be more comfortable and self-assured in a
"These young men and women are already at or approaching an awkward
stage," he adds. "Knowing when and how to do the right thing gives
people a measure of self-esteem that lets them function anywhere
with anyone at any time. If they know what they're supposed to do,
they can relax.
"A lot of times the things we teach are the same things parents have
said. It just goes in one ear and out the other when it comes from
Mom and Dad."
Sans parents, 60 boys and girls are gathered at the Denver Museum of
Nature & Science. The students snicker as Sear cautions that this
one experience - knowing which fork to use or which glass to drink
from - could someday make the difference between getting and not
getting their dream job.
Denver attorney Lisa Hogan would agree. Hogan is co-chair of the
employment group at Brownstein Hyatt and Farber, P.C., which handles
a comprehensive array of legal services. She's not particularly
judgmental, but breaches of table etiquette raise red flags.
"When we bring in a candidate for attorney positions, and take them
out for meals we're looking for poise, intelligence and judgment,"
she says. "If they have noticeably poor manners, like talking with
their mouths full or not putting the napkin in their lap, that could
very well kill the deal."
Consider the person who, at a fashionable Lower Downtown restaurant,
blows his nose on his linen napkin, continues to use it through the
rest of the meal and throws it on the plate for his server to clear
at the end of the meal.
Or the mother who hands a dirty diaper to the waiter in a pricey
French restaurant in Chicago and asks the waiter to dispose of it.
The waiter declines the request.
Students in the culinary program at Johnson & Wales University are
required to experience serving and being served as part of their
On a recent weekday morning J&W instructor Carrie Stebbins put
culinary and hospitality students through their paces in the
university dining room.
"When they go out into the world, they have to be familiar with
various table settings and styles of service," she says.
Stebbins moves among the tables, clipboard in hand, watching for
elbows on the table (a no-no) and, on one occasion, confiscating a
Few in Denver are as devoted to protocol as Mary Louise Starkey,
founder and president of The Starkey International Institute for
Household Management Inc., recognized worldwide for training
Known as "The First Lady of Service," she also instructs debutantes
in social graces at the table.
"No matter who you are, you're judged by how you look, speak, how
you handle yourself and what you have to say," she says. "I don't
say something should be done because someone says so. Good manners
are good manners. There's nothing snooty about it."
Staff writer Ellen Sweets can be reached at 303-820-1284 or
Some basic rules
Place your napkin in your lap, folded into a triangle.
The butter plate and knife are on your left.
The water glass is to your right, approximately at the tip of the
Always use utensils from the outside in. When in doubt, emulate your
Leave the soup spoon in the bowl. To indicate that you're finished
eating, place the knife and fork side by side in the 4:20 clock
Keep toasts short and tasteful. Never drink when you are being
Don't add salt until after you've tasted the food.
If you must leave the table, do so between courses, and place your
napkin on your chair.
Always respond to an invitation, whether for a formal dinner or a
party. Food is prepared based on anticipated attendance. It is rude
to turn up without having announced your intended presence; it is
unforgivable to attend with a companion.
Write a thank-you note within 24 hours if the invitation came in the
mail. If the invitation was extended via telephone, call the host.
Still concerned you might use the wrong fork or butter your
neighbor's bread? Here are some etiquette resources:
"The Big Date: Adventures in Table Etiquette," on video and DVD from
Jon D. Williams Cotillion, 800-860-1235 or www.cotillion.com
Best advice: "Just remember, don't be scared of the silverware."
"The Art of the Table: A Complete Guide to Table Setting, Table
Manners and Tableware," by Suzanne von Drachenfels ($40), leads the
reader from "the basics of coffee" to formal dinner service.
Best advice: "Although expressing appreciation for a meal does not
mean affiliation with a particular faith, to show respect for the
host and the occasion, when grace is said the head is bowed,
regardless of one's beliefs."
"The Duchess Who Wouldn't Sit Down: An Informal History of
Hospitality," by Jesse Browner ($23.95), traces etiquette (and lack
of it) through the ages, up to a moving reminiscence of Thanksgiving
2001 celebrated 2 miles form the World Trade Center site.
Best advice: "The first object of any host is to put his guests at
their ease. From the moment they step through the door, they should
want to be precisely where they are and nowhere else."
"A Gentleman at the Table," by John Bridges and Bryan Curtis ($15),
covers the "32 things every gentleman should know before he comes to
the table," and that's just in the introduction to chapters on using
silverware, dining in restaurants and managing cocktail-party food.
Best advice: "When a gentleman leaves the table, he need not explain
his reason for asking to be excused."
Talk a walk on the dark side of manners at www.etiquettehell.com ,
where people post their horror stories and confess their etiquette
Best advice: "The main obligation for the picky eater is to not draw
attention to his or her eating habits - to 'announce' anything about
food likes or dislikes is rude."
The authors of "Things You Need to Be Told" ($11) and "More Things
You Need to Be Told" ($12), Lesley Carlin and Honore McDonough
Ervin, hold court at www.etiquettegrrls.com , where you can click
on "Features" and "Thanksgiving Dinner Etiquette" for advice on how
to behave in various T-Day scenarios.
Best advice: "Do not, upon spotting Butternut Squash prepared Just
the Way You Like It, reach across the table, grab the bowl, and plop
a Mountain of it onto Your Plate, whilst yelling, 'YES! THE SQUASH
IS ALL MINE, AND NO ONE ELSE CAN HAVE ANY!"'
- Kristen Browning-Blas
by Robert Sietsema
Chop Suey Christmas
From lo mein to lobster in the city's five chinatowns
November 24 - 30, 2004
December 25 dawns and you're totally burned-out. You've endured
zillions of grating TV commercials, looked away in disgust from
innumerable billboards, and spied enough Santas and elves to make
you reach for your buggy whip. What you crave is an oasis from the
Death Valley of Christmas, a place to silence the carols ringing in
your ears and rub balm on your injured psyche. Read on, because
salvation is at hand . . .
I'm not sure who first had the bright idea. Maybe it was the city's
earliest Jews—Brazilian refugees who, upon arriving at our doorstep
in 1654 and encountering an unbroken line of bell-ringing Salvation
Army Santas, decided to chuck it all and go out for chop suey. Or
maybe it was some Victorian traveling salesman from Des Moines
trapped in town for the holidays, who found himself, after
disconsolately wandering for hours, at the corner of Canal and Mott.
But following the contemporary example of Calvin Trillin, I've been
dragging friends down to Chinatown for nearly a decade in search of
an Xmas-free island of sanity.
For a Chinatown Christmas with an antiquarian twist check out Wo Hop
(17 Mott Street, 212-267-2536), a place that's been tantalizing and
satisfying a crowd of what looks like Long Islanders since 1938,
making it the oldest Chinese restaurant in town. The menu of this
tiny walk-down spot is rear-guard Cantonese, from the days when the
cuisine had to be skewed toward Western diners who favored hearty
dishes dressed with plain brown gravy. Yet there's something
undeniably festive about the egg foo young as it's ceremoniously
borne across the room by the black-vested waiter. You can't beat the
clams with black-bean sauce either, or the sautéed Chinese broccoli,
gleaming a green so bright it almost hurts your eyes.
If a more formal setting is what you seek, head across the street to
Peking Duck House (28 Mott Street, 212-227-1810), where the namesake
bird is delivered piping hot to a sideboard near your table, and a
chef with a tall toque approaches, brandishing a carving knife. The
effect is positively Dickensian, and you'll feel like Tiny Tim as
White Hat carves the giant amphibious bird and platters the crisp
bronze skin and dark flavorful meat. Eating it involves wrapping a
gossamer flatbread around duck slices garnished with scallions,
cucumbers, and hoisin sauce, making an Asian burrito. At $34, it's a
holiday miracle, easily feeding four if you add another dish or two
in a noodle or vegetable vein.
Flushing's Chinatown offers several possibilities for going upscale
with your Xmas feast. There are at least three Cantonese pleasure
palaces that allow you to select seafood from jumbo tanks and dine
in elegance. Sporting hardbound menus many pages long, they also
provide typical noodle, pork, and chicken dishes at reasonable
prices, and dim sum until late in the afternoon. Across the street
from Flushing Mall is the newly refurbished and renamed Ocean Jewels
(133-30 39th Avenue, Queens, 718-359-8600). Ascend through a
triumphal gilded entranceway to discover aquariums containing sea
bass, jumbo shrimp, slithery monster eels, thrashing mean-looking
crabs, and lobsters as heavy as seven pounds. Though the menu
originates in Cantonese cooking, it incorporates plenty of Hong Kong
flourishes, and the odd Malaysian, Sichuan, and Thai dish too, so it
didn't surprise me when I asked the waiter the best way to enjoy the
lobster and he replied: "I'd have it raw, cut up, and served with
plenty of wasabi, Japanese style."
If you want to have a red Christmas sans Santa, and at bargain
prices, fly to Spicy and Tasty (39-07 Prince Street, Queens, 718-359-
1601). This superb Sichuan restaurant lakes its dishes in red chile
oil and, as if that weren't enough, adds chile flakes, green chiles,
and Sichuan peppercorns to the infernal concoctions. There are
options for the tender-tongued too, including lamb stew, poached
vegetables rubbed with sesame oil, and tea-smoked duck. S & T is
also an excellent place to explore Chinese organ meats, including
transcendent sautéed kidney with peanuts.
Sunset Park's Chinatown wants to be your favorite destination for
Chinese food. My favorite restaurant is Top One (5805 Eighth Avenue,
Brooklyn, 718-435-9692), where the sautéed and soy-sauced butter
fish is one of the tastiest seafoods in town. The charcuterie—
including ducks, chickens, and various pork cuts—is among the most
distinguished in the city, but note that the supply often runs out
around 6 p.m. Another good bet is Ming Gee (618 62nd Street,
Brooklyn, 718-492-4301), an off-the-beaten-path, family-style place.
Do your guests a favor and order the crab e-fu noodles: The noodles
symbolize long life, while the limpid crab sauce is just plain
delicious. High-rollers opt for the geoduck ("gooey duck") sashimi,
while the less well-heeled will be just as happy with the chicken
Maximum distance can be put between you and Christmas by visiting
Homecrest, Brooklyn, the city's most laid-back Chinatown. Stretching
from Ocean Avenue to Ocean Parkway, centered on both sides of the Q
stop on Avenue U, the neighborhood features fishmongers and
vegetable stands, but only a handful of restaurants. There's a
cluster of fancier places near the Ocean Avenue side, like the brand-
new K & R Seafood (1915 Avenue U, 718-934-8889), but I prefer the
venerable Wing Shing (1217-1221 Avenue U, 718-998-0360), where
Chinese shoppers dine cheek-by-jowl with Russian families, and the
typical Cantonese coffee-shop menu is supplemented with reasonably
priced seafood—including flounder, sea bass, snails, lobsters, and
crabs. The noodles are particularly impressive, including the kids'
favorite, pan-fried noodles, which come topped with beef, chicken,
veggies, or shrimp with egg sauce. The suckling pig (choose "roast
pig" from the menu rather than "roast pork") is particularly
succulent and crispy, and the $6.50 appetizing plate is enough for
Elmhurst's Chinatown might be better called Asiatown, since Chinese
restaurants vie with Malaysian, Thai, and Korean restaurants for
your affection. The tree-shaded park right above the Elmhurst stop
on the R and V trains is a particular hotbed. Facing it is tiny-but-
formidable Malaysian Taste Good (82-18 45th Avenue, Queens, 718-898-
8001), which remains stalwart even though its Manhattan branch
recently closed. Fish of choice is stingray; the satays, always
popular with kids, are delicate and toothsome; and bean curd comes
in many guises in the dish "young tofu." Just across the park find
newcomer King 5 Noodle (82-39 Broadway, Queens, 718-205-7888), one
branch of a chain serving northern Chinese food with Taiwanese
flourishes. Thrill to fried dumplings and noodles and a nifty list
of 61 main courses that cost only $6.50 each and come with a free
bowl of beef soup.
You may have noticed as you re-enter the subway that the park is
called Moore Homestead. What you might not know is that around 1850
it was the country home of Clement Clarke Moore. Name sound
familiar? He wrote "The Night Before Christmas." Proving that,
wherever you go in the city, you can never completely escape the
Suit Claims Restaurant Treated Workers As "Sex Slaves"
NOVEMBER 29TH, 2004
Workers at a popular Latin American chicken restaurant in Brooklyn
have filed a class action lawsuit claiming they were treated as "sex
slaves" by superiors.
At least 20 female employees of Pollo Campero in Sunset Park say
they have endured constant sexual advances, verbal abuse and
The suit claims those who refused managers' advances were called
vulgar names and assigned less desirable duties.
The workers are seeking unspecified damages and back pay.
The restaurant has not returned NY1's calls for comment.
Denny's eateries close up abruptly
Akron Beacon Journal
By Craig Webb
AKRON, Ohio (Nov. 29) - Four Denny's restaurants in the Akron area
abruptly closed their doors over the weekend.
Restaurants in Medina, Brunswick, Canton and Streetsboro owned by
Michael Kafantaris locked their doors and sent workers home as the
eateries ran out of food Saturday and Sunday.
A manager at the Medina restaurant, who did not give her name, said
that restaurant, which is something of a local landmark along state
Route 18 near Interstate 71 because of its silver diner design,
closed its doors at 3 p.m. Sunday.
The manager said she was hopeful a new buyer for the restaurant will
be found or that additional financing will be secured by the
franchisee so employees at the various outlets could come back to
The manager added there were about 35 employees at the Medina
Kafantaris, who owns MDK Food Service Inc., could not be reached for
The other Denny's restaurants that closed were on Center Road in
Brunswick, on state Route 14 in Streetsboro and on Regenta Avenue in
The Internal Revenue Service filed a lien against MDK Food Service
in July 2003 seeking $138,089 in back taxes, according to court
© 2004 Akron Beacon Journal. All Rights Reserved.
Just address an email to WaiterNews@yahoogroups.com
Jump to a particular message