TRA is continually working to benefit the industry both at the state and local levels.
Local issues at a glance
- San Antonio – letter grading system defeated; city adopted a voluntary letter grading system. Results have been mixed and the San Antonio Restaurant Association continues to push the City to end the program.
- Harris County – food handler employee registration list defeated; new airport corridor sign ordinance proposed – the Houston Chapter and TRA are reviewing the ordinance, meeting with Council staff and stakeholders to gauge impact on restaurant industry.
- Dallas – defeated an ordinance requiring a late-night overlay which was intended to curb noise issues, but which would have had a severe effect on restaurant operations and profitability.
San Antonio Restaurant Association, San Angelo Restaurant Association and Health Letter Grades
In 2015, both the San Antonio and San Angelo City Councils considered ordinances to implement letter grade health inspections for food establishments. The San Antonio and the San Angelo Chapters reached out to TRA for advice and help to lobby the City Council to defeat the proposal. TRA provided lobbying strategy, best practices, and history of other TRA chapter battles on the same issue. Because of TRA’s guidance, the San Antonio proposal was defeated while the San Angelo Chapter worked closely with the San Angelo Health Department to develop a solution to which all interested parties could agree. The San Angelo letter grade proposal was defeated and replaced with a 100-point scale grading system, allowing the health department to utilize the same forms and procedures while giving restaurateurs additional clarity in scoring. This local advocacy issue enabled both chapters to engage the local health department as well as create goodwill and understanding between restaurateurs, the health department, and the City Councils.
Centex Restaurant Association and Local Transportation Fees and Queuing ordinance
In July 2015, the Killeen City Council considered a transportation impact fee (utility fee), based on square footage, to be added to commercial city utility bills to finance transportation maintenance and improvements. Restaurants and medical establishments were assigned some of the highest multipliers among the different industry categories. The Centex Chapter reached out to Killeen city officials to discourage the proposed plan. TRA worked with Killeen TRA members to alert them about the proposed fee and then reached out to the Killeen City Council to voice their opinion. In addition, TRA sent a letter to the Mayor of Killeen in opposition, arguing about the disproportionate and unfair impact of the fee on restaurateurs. After TRA and the Centex Chapter successfully lobbied to city officials, the city council voted down the proposed transportation impact fee (utility fee).
The Waco Chapter advocated on behalf of the local restaurant industry to make sure that the Waco City Council did not unnecessarily burden the industry by passing a queuing and drive-through lanes ordinance detrimental to the industry. TRA supported the Waco Chapter in presenting suggested language and improvements to the ordinance.
Greater Austin Restaurant Association – Paid Sick Leave Ordinance and Smoke Scrubbers
In 2017, the Austin City Council passed a resolution starting the process of establishing a paid sick leave ordinance which would require all business to provide a minimum level of paid sick leave to Austin-based employees. The Greater Austin Restaurant Association (GARA) and TRA have been heavily involved in the stakeholder process, meeting with City Council staff, and elected officials to express concerns unique to the service industry, such as scheduling issues, employing people for catering and catered events, and full-time vs. part-time concerns. TRA and GARA will continue working to ensure that the ordinance provides protections for the restaurant industry.
In early 2015, based upon two isolated incidents (individual complaints), the Austin City Council passed a resolution requiring all restaurants operating an indoor solid fuel burning stove/pit to install smoke scrubbers on their exhaust systems. GARA leaders, with support of TRA, spoke against the proposal at a city council meeting, and the issue was then referred to two committees for review. GARA leaders, with TRA support, later met with City Council members and staff, health department director and staff, and Texas Commission Environmental Quality (TCEQ) staff to outline the issue, their concerns, health issues, the significant costs associated with smoke scrubbers, and the detrimental business impact the ordinance would impose. As a result, the Economic Opportunity Committee recommended that the proposed ordinance not be considered by the City Council. The Health Committee has not yet made a recommendation on the proposed ordinance, but has scheduled another meeting on the issue. TRA is continuing to work with GARA to monitor this issue and other issues affecting the restaurant industry.