U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has introduced The Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive Act of 2020 (RESTAURANTS Act). The proposed bill would create a $120 billion “restaurant stabilization grant program designed to help independent restaurants deal with the long-term structural challenges facing the industry due to COVID-19 and ensure they can reemploy 11 million workers,” according to Blumenauer’s May 20, 2020, press release. The program, which would be administered by the Department of the Treasury, would provide grants sufficient "to cover the difference between revenues from 2019 and projected revenues through 2020, with a maximum grant of $10 million.”
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a food-safety checklist for retail food establishments that have been closed or operating in a limited capacity during shelter-in-place orders. The list covers issues that may arise if a facility has been closed, such as ensuring water and sewage lines or coolers and freezers are working, and approaches to slowing the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing measures and increased outdoor air circulation. Checklist sections include facility operations; water, plumbing and ice; cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing for food contact and non-food contact surfaces; food temperature control; product inspection and rotation; warewashing equipment; handwashing stations; employee health; and social distancing.
A Texas state court has reportedly ordered Hillstone Restaurant Group to allow an employee returning to work to wear a face mask to avoid the transmission of COVID-19. The complaint initially sought to lift the restaurant group’s mask ban for all employees, but the plaintiff amended the complaint to only apply to her after the company attempted to remove the case to federal court, according to the Dallas Morning News. The employee asserted that she was denied four shifts, or 40 hours, because she refused to work without a mask, and the court’s temporary order will allow her to wear a mask for two weeks.
An Illinois federal court has dismissed a lawsuit alleging Wendy's International discriminates against disabled customers who cannot independently access 24-hour Wendy's locations during night hours when the stores only accept drive-through orders. Davis v. Wendy's Int'l LLC, No. 19-4003 (N.D. Ill., E. Div., entered December 12, 2019). The court held that the Wendy's policy applied to all pedestrians regardless of their disabled status. "[A]s with any other non-drivers, [the plaintiff] could access the drive-through if she were a passenger in a car sharing service, a taxi, or a friend's car," the court noted. "Therefore, the fact that [the plaintiff] cannot drive because of her visual impairment does not establish that Wendy's drive-through policies are the but-for cause for her inability to obtain food.  Instead, it is her status as a pedestrian that is the but-for cause of her injury." The court dismissed the plaintiff's claim with prejudice.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has dismissed a challenge to trade dress protection granted to Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant & Butik Inc., a Wisconsin restaurant that features grazing goats on its rooftop, brought by an attorney who found the trade dress "demeaning to goats." Bank v. Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant & Butik Inc., No. 19-1880 (Fed. Cir., entered December 9, 2019). The attorney argued that the trade dress of the restaurant, which includes a rooftop covered in grass and several goats grazing on it, is "offensive" and "denigrates the value he places on the respect, dignity, and worth of animals." The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board found this argument insufficient to establish standing; the Federal Circuit agreed and dismissed the appeal.
The Minneapolis City Council has reportedly voted to ban the establishment of new drive-thru facilities within city limits. The ordinance does not affect existing restaurants, and businesses are permitted to alter or expand their drive-thrus. The law reportedly targets carbon emissions caused by idling cars.
A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Bareburger Group misrepresents its restaurants as selling only organic food despite using some non-organic ingredients in its products. Rosenberg v. Bareburger Grp., No. 19-1634 (E.D.N.Y., filed March 22, 2019). The plaintiff and Bareburger were the subjects of a New York Times article in August 2018 that explored the use of the term "organic" in restaurant advertising. The complaint asserts that Bareburger features the term "organic" throughout its signage, menu descriptions and marketing but does not ensure that the products are fully organic. "Defendant's executives confirmed that approximately 75 to 80 percent of the burgers were organic, not 100 percent, contrary to the labels," the plaintiff alleges, citing the New York Times article. "Defendant's 'Organic' restaurants have countless non-organic ingredients including lamb and bison and mayonnaise and tomatoes—crucial condiments when it comes to dressing up a purportedly organic burger." For allegations…
The California Senate has reportedly passed legislation that would prohibit dine-in restaurant employees from offering patrons plastic straws. The restriction, which passed 25-12, would allow for the provision of straws if customers ask for them. Critics of the measure in the legislature purportedly argue that the effects of plastic straws are “a bit overstated,” with one legislator pointing out that plastic straws continue to be offered in the capitol building. The measure has been returned to the California State Assembly for concurrence in amendments.
A federal court in Louisiana has dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit alleging that Chipotle Mexican Grill's food caused the plaintiff to contract Helicobacter pylori, holding that the plaintiff had not pleaded "any semblance of a fact that causally connects [his] illness" with Chipotle. Gilyard v. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., No. 17-0441 (W.D. La., entered June 14, 2018). The court found that the plaintiff failed to plead "factual allegations sufficient to show that Chipotle failed to act as a prudent person skilled in food preparation." The only factual allegation in the complaint, the court noted, was that the plaintiff regularly ate at Chipotle in the two months before he was diagnosed with an H. pylori infection. Further, the court found, the complaint did not allege how the food was defective, how the duty of reasonable care in making or storing the food was breached, or that Chipotle provided contaminated food or utensils.
Brinker International Inc. faces a putative class action alleging hackers stole customers' personally identifiable information (PII) from point-of-sale systems at Chili's Grill & Bar in April and May 2018. Steinmetz v. Brinker Int'l, Inc, No. 18-0981 (D. Nev., filed May 30, 2018). The plaintiff seeks damages, an injunction and attorney's fees for negligence and alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Nevada consumer-protection law. Wendy’s International LLC has agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging that a similar point-of-sale breach exposed customers’ PII at more than 1,000 locations nationwide. Jackson v. Wendy's Int'l LLC, No. 16-0210 (M.D. Fla., entered May 25. 2018). The lawsuit was previously dismissed, then an amended complaint proceeded. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. An Illinois federal court dismissed a putative class action without prejudice after the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed claims related to a data breach of Panera Bread Co.’s customer records because none…