The Price of Peace – Perch DTLA Backtracks on Security Fees While Others Forge Ahead

Old-school cake-cutting, splitting, and corkage fees are not the only add-ons that decorate a bill at the end of the night anymore, as restaurants and bars across the country have been adding new surcharges like health care, inflation, and COVID-19 support over the past few years.

Most restaurants will allow guests to bring their own cake and the service staff will cut and plate it for them. Since the business won’t be able to sell its dessert, a reasonable cake-cutting fee per person is added.

Same for customers who bring their own bottle of wine. A corkage fee that can range anywhere from $20 to $50 is usually not fought in the face of not having to buy an expensive bottle from the restaurant’s shelf.

Paying an extra $1.50 for extra avocado is a no-brainer, rarely will there not be an upcharge to swap out mashed potatoes for seasonal mushrooms and no one has been fighting the 18% gratuity for a party of six or more.

Angeleno guests have been accepting of mark-ups along the way and have shown understanding of the rising costs to keep businesses not only around, but also thriving.

The new shiny sister, and most controversial of them all: the security surcharge.

The Trouble at Perch

The past couple of weeks have seen multiple news outlets reporting on a debate that has been sparked by the very popular rooftop restaurant & bar Perch, located at 448 S Hill Street in DTLA, after the establishment briefly added an automatic security charge to the bill. Their dinner menu stating:

A 4.5% Security charge is added to all guest checks.   
The entirety of the charge is retained by the restaurant for safety and security resources.

Make it Make Sense!

DTLA locals have been trying to make sense of it all, exchanging opinions and humorous comments alike on the 9000-member-strong Facebook community group ‘Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) – Town Square’ – administered by long-time local hero, DTLA Rich.

“More price gouging from businesses that are clearly doing very well based on serious increases in menu & alcohol prices. This restaurant has always had security at the door… they never charged fees for it before. I will give my $$ to someone else”, commented Nannette B.

Another member of the group, Anthony B. tried to find the funny in it, pointing out a neighbors comment, “Someone asked what would happen if you brought your own security, to which a third poster responded: “Then you have to pay a security corkage fee.”

Hal Bergman wrote, “Just raise the prices on the menu FFS. This stuff seems so bait and switch-y. Even Kazu-Nori which “bans tipping” just has a flat 18% flat surcharge on all bills for “employee welfare”. So, a tip. Just raise the prices on the menu by 18% and then actually ban tipping, it’s the same thing and doesn’t feel like a swindle.”

One local patron told KTLA in a TV interview, “Paying an extra security fee is crazy, when you think about it, it is crazy.”

Among the presence of ongoing controversy, DT Weekly reached out to Perch with their response stating,

“The security fee, at this time, has been removed.” – Best, Perch

While other downtown restaurants like Bottega Louie and Redbird either politely denied or did not respond to our interview request regarding surcharges, however some explanation may come from outside the city.

Enter the CRA

While the California Restaurant Association (CRA) couldn’t speak on security charges as a trend on the rise, they did express that there certainly have been more unfortunate incidents in Los Angeles, after which restaurant and bar owners decided to put extra security measures in place.

“Employers are worried about their staff getting harassed or hurt when they leave a job that is not a regular 9-5 employment situation. They want their servers, bartenders, and everyone else, who helps create a positive experience for guests, to be safe when they walk to the parking lot at night”, says Megan Gamble who just recently joined the association.

Perch is not an only child.

The Ruby Fruit in Silverlake also has a disclaimer on their menu for a 4% security to ensure the safety of guests and staff.

Most places will remove markups from the bill if the server is informed but it does seem to leave a bitter taste in customer’s mouths.

But, Will Restaurant Owners Continue to Get Away with Added Fees?

Perhaps, the new California law that is, according to a law firm called BakerHostetler, going into effect on July 1, 2024, and supposed to crack down on surprise fees, will sit well with customers as they navigate through planning an affordable evening out.

However, the exact details are still a bit fuzzy. It’s not sure yet if things like surcharges and service charges will be banned altogether or if restaurants just have to be super upfront about these fees right from the get-go.

“There has been an incline of incidents involving intoxicated patrons, people who are experiencing homelessness, or those who suffer from mental health problems. Said incidents include the confrontation of guests all over Los Angeles as of late, even in well-patrolled areas like Santa Monica”, the California Restaurant Association states and further adds, “Upping private security measures to keep everyone safe costs a lot of money.”

“A Transparency Fee” in Michigan?

Surcharges in general aren’t confined to California and come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. The Iron Bay, a business in Marquette, Michigan, came up with a transparency fee of 4% that is supposed to help pay wages for employees who soon may lose the privilege of their tipped position.

Whatever the label may be, in times of inflation and people still recovering from circumstances brought on by COVID, one wonders if one safe evening out to enjoy human interaction is worth more than many potentially unsafe get-togethers.

In the end, it will be up to the individual, what they consider as safety and what’s worth paying for.

Author: Viola Sator

Los Angeles based Storyteller | Hot Sauce Addict | Animal Lover & Advocate | Vegan | Meditator | Served Straight Up with a German Twist |

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