• Posts by Pooja S. Nair
    Partner

    Pooja S. Nair is a business litigator and problem solver with a focus on the food and beverage sector. She advises food and beverage clients, startups and other businesses on a comprehensive range of issues, including employment ...

California Enacts Small Business Bills

On September 9, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed three bills into law that were designed to provide support for small businesses, including restaurants and other food and beverage companies. 

SB 1447 authorizes a $100 million hiring tax credit program for qualified small businesses. The hiring credit will be equal to $1,000 for each net increase in qualified employees, up to $100,000 for each qualified small business employer.  To qualify for the credit, the business’ gross income must have declined at least 50% over this time last year.

AB 1577 excludes Paycheck ...

California Expands Sick Leave and Mandates Handwashing Breaks for Food Sector Employees

On September 9, 2020, California Governor Newsom signed AB-1867 as emergency legislation, meaning the law became effective upon his signature, with no waiting period. The law has three distinct parts: it expands California’s supplemental sick leave provisions for food sector workers, creates a new handwashing break requirement for food sector employees, and creates a pilot mediation program for small employers.

AB-1867 is part of California’s larger effort to fill perceived gaps in paid sick leave mandates due to COVID-19.  In April 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive ...

Posted in Legal Bites
Riverside County First to Implement California Home Cooking Legislation

In September 2018, the California legislature passed AB-626, The Homemade Food Operations Act. The law was passed with widespread bipartisan support. AB-626 created a framework under which small-scale home cooks could legally sell food made in their kitchens to the public. The law defines a microenterprise home kitchen as a “food facility that is operated by a resident in a private home where food is stored, handled, and prepared for, and may be served to consumers” with no more than one full-time employee. Microenterprise home kitchens could generate up to $50,000 in gross ...

Posted in Legal Bites
Made in USA Proposed Rule: FTC Commissioners’ Statements Show Rift as Comment Period Closes

On June 22, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission issued a proposed Made in USA Rule regulating how businesses can advertise that their products are made in the U.S., and giving the agency discretion to impose civil penalties.

The FTC’s Made in the U.S.A. enforcement program is based on Section 5 of the FTC Act, which governs deceptive acts and practices in commerce. It applies to a host of advertising and other claims about the U.S. origin of products. In 1994, Congress codified Section 5a, titled “Labels on products”. Section 5a applies to “a product with a ‘Made in U.S.” label ...

California’s New Reopening Plan

On August 31, 2020, California introduced a statewide blueprint for reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic designed to provide clear guidance and timelines for which industries may safely open. 

The new system is color-coded and has four tiers, with Tier 1 being the highest risk of community disease transmission and Tier 4 the lowest risk. The four tiers are based on two factors: (1) the county’s positivity rate; and (2) the daily new cases for each 100,000 residents.

The tiers are outlined below:

  • Tier 1 (purple/widespread): higher than 8% testing positivity rate; more than 7 daily ...
Posted in Legal Bites
LA City Council Extends Delivery Fee Cap

On August 26, 2020, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to extend the 15% cap on delivery fees charged to restaurants.  The fee cap was originally adopted on June 10, 2020, and was set to expire on August 31, 2020.

The approved amendment to the Limit on Third-Party Food Delivery Service Fees Ordinance No. 186665 states that “the current sunset date of Aug 31, 2020 be amended to 90 days after restaurants are able to resume indoor dining capacity at 100 percent and that the ordinance would be in effect at any point if the restaurants are required to reduce indoor capacity due to the ...

Posted in Legal Bites
“L.A. Al Fresco” Program Extended to End of 2020

The City of Los Angeles announced that it has extended its “L.A. Al Fresco” program until the end of 2020. The program was designed to help restaurants reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic by offering a streamlined permitting program to turn sidewalks, parking lots, and other spaces into outdoor dining areas.

Mayor Garcetti announced that 1,486 restaurants have received Al Fresco permits so far, including many small businesses. The most recent stage of the Al Fresco program, which began on June 26, 2020, has directed 55% of program resources to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of ...

Posted in Legal Bites
RESTAURANTS Act Gains Momentum

A bi-partisan bill to aid restaurants is gaining momentum, with over 180 co-sponsors and additional endorsements announced in the past few weeks.  The bill is officially titled the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed To Survive Act of 2020, but is better known as the RESTAURANTS Act of 2020 (“the Act”).

The Act was introduced on a bipartisan basis in the Senate by Senator Roger Wicker and in the House of Representatives by Congressman Earl Blumenauer. The Act currently has 182 co-sponsors in the House. The National Restaurant Association ...

Posted in Legal Bites
FDA Issues New Gluten-Free Labeling Rule

The FDA recently published a final rule to establish requirements for “gluten-free” labeling for fermented, hydrolyzed and distilled food.  The rule will go into effect on October 13, 2020, with a compliance date of August 13, 2021.

Federal regulations define the term “gluten-free” to mean that the food bearing the claim does not contain: (1) an ingredient that is a gluten-containing grain; (2) an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain and that has not been processed to remove gluten; or (3) an ingredient that is derived from a gluten-containing grain and ...

Nevada Enacts New Hospitality Bill 

On August 11, 2020, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signed Senate Bill 4, which sets new safety standards for the hospitality industry, provides some protections for hospitality workers, and provides for immunity for businesses who comply with statutory requirements. 

In passing the law, the Governor noted the importance of the travel and tourism industry to the state.  Due to the pandemic, the hospitality industry lost over 130,000 jobs in April and May alone. 

The law creates new safety requirements for the hospitality industry in Nevada. Public accommodation facilities, which ...

Posted in Legal Bites
USDA Announces New Rule to Fight Organic Fraud

On August 5, 2020, the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a proposed rule designed to strengthen the agency’s oversight and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic agricultural products.  Currently, organic products are eligible for a USDA seal, but there have been concerns of fraud due to the complexity of the organic produce supply chain.  For instance, in August 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Iowa announced that four individuals were sentenced for their role in a $120 million organic fraud scheme, in which ...

Posted in Legal Bites
USDA's 2020 Dietary Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released an online-only first print of the Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

The 2020 Scientific Report has two unique features that are new from previous years. First, the Committee took a “lifespan approach” in reviewing evidence. The Committee reviewed the period from birth to age 24 months and also conducted a review of diet and health issues in pregnancy and lactation. Second, the Committee focuses on dietary patterns based on growing evidence that components of a dietary pattern may have interactive ...

Los Angeles County Proposes that Employees Report COVID-19 Violations through Public Health Commissions

On July 21, 2020, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion to enforce the monitoring of compliance with County health orders by encouraging workers to directly report health code violations through employee “public health councils.” Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas co-authored the motion, which could have a significant impact by placing employees, rather than public health inspectors, at the front lines of enforcing public health orders.

The Board noted that workplace transmission has been a significant factor contributing to the ...

Posted in Legal Bites
New Outdoor Dining Permits Available for LA County Restaurants

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works recently released information about its COVID-19 Temporary Outdoor Dining Program. The program is designed for restaurants in unincorporated Los Angeles County that are interested in temporarily expanding dining seating into private walkway and parking lots. More than 2,653.5 square miles or 65 percent of Los Angeles County is unincorporated.

The Department provides streamlined applications for restaurants interested in offering dining services on a public sidewalk, in the on-street parking area, in a public alley, or on a ...

Posted in Legal Bites
Your Food Delivery Worker May Soon Be Certified

On July 21, 2020, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors announced that it would be considering a county-wide requirement for food delivery workers to obtain a food handler certification. The Board noted that food delivery network companies, including Instacart and Uber Eats, are essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they rely on independent gig workers. 

The Motion, put forward by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, sought more information on the feasibility and costs of requiring these workers to obtain a food handler certification in order to ...

Posted in Legal Bites
Quick Service Restaurants Required to Make Composting/Recycling Bins Available to Customers for Food Waste

On July 1, 2020, a 2019 California law requiring restaurants, malls and other businesses to make composting and recycling bins accessible to customers officially went into effect. Full-service restaurants are exempt from the bill if employees sort organic waste. However, quick or limited-service restaurants and all other businesses that generate organic waste and subscribe to recycling or composting services must make bins accessible to customers.

Assembly Bill 827 mandates that businesses that are already required to subscribe to recycling or composting services under ...

Posted in Legal Bites
California’s Single-Use Plastic Bag Ban Is Back

Governor Gavin Newsom’s temporary suspension of California’s ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery stores was allowed to expire, effectively fully reinstating the ban and requiring grocery stores to charge customers at least 10 cents a bag for plastic bags, and to permit customers to bring reusable bags. 

Newsom issued an executive order on April 22, 2020 to suspend the state’s 2016 plastic bag ban for 60 days based on concerns about the COVID-19 virus spreading from shoppers bringing reusable bags into grocery stores. The order expired on June 22, 2020. 

The order suspended ...

Posted in Legal Bites
California Closes Bars and Indoor Dining Statewide

On July 13, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that restaurants across the state must cease indoor operations.  All bars, both indoor and outdoor, are ordered to close statewide. Restaurants may continue to offer outdoor dining and takeout.  Additionally, all indoor operations at wineries and tasting rooms are ordered to cease. Previously, indoor dining and bars were closed in many of the state’s most populous counties, including Los Angeles.

In addition to restaurants, the state is ordering thirty counties to close indoor operations at fitness centers, malls, offices for ...

California Issues Guidance For Restaurants Providing Outdoor Dining, Takeout, Drive-Through and Delivery 

Adding to an already impressive list of industry specific guidelines, the California Department of Health and the Department of Industrial Relations/Cal-OSHA have issued an Industry Guidance for Restaurants Providing Outdoor Dining, Takeout, Drive-Through, and Delivery. Restaurants are instructed to consult the COVID-19 County Roadmap for more information on reopening in particular counties within the state. In addition, the guidance reminds all business owners that the guidance is not dispositive and that other state and local health orders and guidelines may apply ...

Reopening Rollback!

On July 13, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a significant rollback of California’s reopening and ordered 30 of the most populous counties in the state to cease indoor operations. The order includes closing indoor operations at malls, offices for non-critical sectors, places of worships, hair salons, fitness centers and personal care services. The affected counties as of July 13, 2020 include Los Angeles, San Diego, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Orange. A full list is available here

Additionally, Newsom issued a statewide order closing indoor operations for restaurants ...

Posted in Legal Bites
LA County Cracks Down on Restaurants Violating COVID-19 Health Orders

On July 7, 2020, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion to fine LA County businesses, including restaurants, for violations of COVID-19 public health orders, and to shut businesses down for non-compliance in as little as two health inspector visits. The motion was proposed by Supervisors Shelia Kuehl and Janice Hahn. 

In explaining the urgency of passing the motion, the proposal states: “on the weekend of June 27-28, inspectors found that 49% of bars and 33% of restaurants were not adhering to physical distancing protocols indoors and that 54% of bars and 44% of ...

Posted in Legal Bites
FTC Issues Proposed Rule for Made in USA Labeling

On June 22, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission issued a proposed Made in USA Rule regarding when businesses can advertise that their products are made in the U.S., and giving the agency discretion to impose civil penalties.  The proposed rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register, but the agency has invited businesses to file public comments regarding their feedback.

Under the Rule, advertisers would be prohibited from making unqualified Made in USA claims unless the following three factors are met.  First, final assembly or processing of the product occurs in the United ...

Posted in Legal Bites
California Orders Restaurants to Halt Indoor Dining

On July 1, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered restaurants in nineteen California counties, including Los Angeles County, to cease indoor operations for at least three weeks, until July 22, 2020.

The nineteen counties affected by the Governor’s order represent 70% of the California population. They are Contra Costa, Fresno, Glenn, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Merced, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Solano, Stanislaus, Tulare and Ventura counties.

In addition to restaurants, the order requires that wineries ...

Posted in Legal Bites
Bars, Tasting Rooms and Breweries Ordered to Close

On June 28, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered that bars in seven California counties close. These counties are: Los Angeles, Fresno, Kern, San Joaquin, Tulare, Kings and Imperial. 

The state has also recommended, but not ordered that eight other counties issue local health orders closing bars: Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sacramento, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Stanislaus.

The order and recommendations are a result of an increase in new cases and hospitalizations across the state.

Following the order, the Los Angeles County Department of ...

Business Interruption Insurance Coverage: A Guide for Restaurants

Restaurants whose operations have been shut down due to the coronavirus crisis are looking to their business interruption or business income insurance policies for relief, and have found resistance from insurance companies paying these claims.

As a general matter, in order to trigger coverage those policies require (1) direct physical loss or damage; (2) to covered property: (3) arising from a covered peril; and (4) resulting in the suspension of the business’ operations.

In cases where coverage is triggered, an insured business may be entitled to recover the net income it would ...

Posted in Legal Bites
California Legislature Advances Bill to Regulate Food Delivery Platforms

California’s legislative season is in full swing, and the California State Assembly and State Senate are advancing bills that will affect the food, beverage, and hospitality industry, with a focus on the restaurant industry.

State legislators have shown an interest in regulating food delivery platforms. Several cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, have capped delivery fees that these platforms, including Grubhub, Door Dash, Uber Eats and Postmates, can charge restaurants at least for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Concerns have also been raised by ...

Posted in Legal Bites
“L.A. Al Fresco” Program Launched

The City of Los Angeles has launched an “L.A. Al Fresco” Program aimed at helping restaurants reopen while following COVID-19 physical distancing guidelines. 

The program will allow restaurants to use their sidewalk and private parking lots spaces to increase their outdoor dining capacity.  Through the program, the City will offer streamlined, immediate approval for eligible restaurants to provide outdoor dining in sidewalks and private parking lots.  The approval will also allow restaurants to serve alcohol in these areas.

L.A. Al Fresco was launched on May 29, 2020 and the ...

Posted in Legal Bites
LA City Council Caps Delivery Fees at 15%

On June 3, 2020, the Los Angeles City Council adopted an ordinance capping third-party food delivery services fees at 15% for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The ordinance will become part of the City’s Municipal Code.

The new ordinance makes it unlawful for a third-party food delivery service to charge a restaurant a fee per online order of more than 15% of the purchase price of the order. The ordinance is designed to protect the restaurant industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, when dine-in was prohibited. The ordinance is set to expire 90 days after the ...

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