Sunday, March 1, 2009

Industry lobbyists look to walk a fine line

The restaurant industry will have to be careful as it contends with a legislative threat that arose last week on Capitol Hill. A provision introduced in the Senate would prohibit the 421 financial institutions receiving federal bailout assistance from holding parties, celebratory dinners or other entertainment-type events, according to Michael Kaufman, the current chairman of the National Restaurant Association.

“Think of the effects of that bill on the hospitality industry,” Kaufman said during a presentation at the New York restaurant show this afternoon in New York City.

Kaufman cited the initiative as an example of the legislative proposals the Association regularly monitors and attempts to temper or defeat.

Good luck this time around. Lynch mobs probably formed after word leaked out of lavish parties being held by some of the banks that received billions in aid from the U.S. Treasury Department. The NRA will have to move delicately as it tries to preserve a lucrative source of event business for restaurants. Otherwise, it’ll look as if the industry is an enabler for the banks’ lavish shenanigans.

During his presentation, Kaufman also revealed the NRA is in the later stages of developing a new healthcare insurance program for the industry. He noted that the Association’s current chief, Dawn Sweeney, joined the group about a year ago after helping AARP develop a breakthrough healthcare program for its members. That acumen, he suggested, is being applied to the industry’s longstanding quest for affordable insurance for the rank-and-file.

An NRA director in attendance said he believes the program under development could cut the healthcare bill for him and his wife by more than $3,000.

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