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Some businesses could charge a COVID-19 fee, but is it legal?

Restaurants and other businesses have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic and some are trying to make up their losses with surcharges.

TAMPA, Fla. — Florida is now fully operating under "Phase One" of Governor Ron DeSantis' reopening plan. That means restaurants can operate at 50 percent capacity and museums, libraries, gyms and salons are allowed to open as well.

As customers start trickling back into restaurants and salons, they may see some extra charges on their next receipt. Some businesses are adding COVID-19 surcharges to help cover their losses after being closed for weeks or to help fund additional protective equipment and cleaning supplies. 

Adam Itzkowitz, a managing partner at Itzkowitz Law, says in Florida these charges are completely legal.

"I would expect to see this going forward, due to the expenses for sanitizing, PPE and supply chain costs. This is legal, even if it's upsetting for some customers," said Itzkowitz. 

"It's important that businesses are as transparent as possible when implementing these fees though, posting signage or putting something online for the customer to see," said Itzkowitz. 

Although a COVID-19 surcharge is legal, he says they may not be good business practice.

 "There are other ways to make up costs around the edges that don't result in a COVID-19 surcharge tacked on." 

He says in the restaurant industry, you may see cost-saving measures taken like reducing the size of the menu to focus on affordable and profitable ingredients that aren't in short supply or a small increase in the price of your food. 

Itzkowitz says since these fees are legal in Florida, you could technically see them at any business. You could see a personal protective equipment fee added to the bill for your next dentist or doctor's visit. You could see extra cleaning fees on a hotel bill or an increase to your gym membership cost for increased disinfection. 

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