Posted by Elissa Elan on April 23, 2012.
A contingent of Georgia restaurateurs converged on Capitol Hill last week, seeking assistance from their state's legislators on how to ease some of the financial and regulatory pressures affecting their businesses and the industry.
The restaurateurs joined approximately 550 others who visited lawmakers during the National Restaurant Association Public Affairs Conference April 17-18 in Washington, D.C. Delegations from 45 states visited more than 300 congressional offices.
Led by Karen Bremer, executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association, Patrick Cuccaro, chairman of the GRA, and Geoff Hill, an NRA board member and vice president of Atlanta-based private-equity firm Roark Capital Group, the restaurateurs visited the offices of U.S. Representatives John Barrow, D-Ga., Austin Scott, R-Ga., John Lewis, D-Ga., and Senators Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., to discuss issues such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, immigration and increasing protection against credit-card information breaches.
Rounding out the group were GRA members Hank Clark of Marlow's Taverns, Susie Oddo of Tappan Street Restaurant Group and Mike Seymour of Postec Inc.
Bremer told Barrow her association's members appreciate his help and support of small business legislation, but expressed concern over the health care act, saying it is a huge issue for restaurateurs and other small business operators.
Roark Capital's Hill agreed, telling the congressman, "We do support affordable health care, and we would like our employees to have health care, but not what is being offered now. "The unknowns and what we do know are devastating."
Barrow told Bremer and her group he was the only Democrat to vote for a repeal of the healthcare act's employer mandate, but also said he would not vote to take away the good things that exist in the bill.
He referred to the employer mandate as a "sleeping giant" that could have huge repercussions for the economy.
Besides stressing the concerns over health care, Bremer also noted that "more oversight is needed to protect merchants who deal with credit cards and that there is little movement [in that area] right now."
Bremer further asserted that in the case of immigration, a more workable mandate is necessary for Georgia's business community, and, in particular, its restaurant industry.
"We need a workable plan for our people," she said.
Following the GRA's meetings with the politicians, Cuccaro said that, all in all, the meetings were positive and productive.
"We caught our rhythm and made things happen," he said. "I would repeat [the experience] given the outcome."