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New York restaurants are about to get a COVID surcharge

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New York restaurants are about to get a COVID surcharge

New Yorkers love eating out, but they’re starting to gripe about a coronavirus surcharge that can add up to 10 percent to the final bill. 

The surcharge — OK’d by Mayor Bill de Blasio last October — was introduced to help Big Apple restaurants survive the pandemic. But many New Yorkers say they’re only just starting to notice it tacked onto their bills as restaurants with expanded outdoor seating capacity start filling up like it was 2019. 

“My colleagues and I were just talking about COVID charges. It’s a hot topic,” said Yovanka Bylander, who works at an investment advisory firm. “I noticed it when I was out recently, and a colleague said he noticed it at his birthday dinner at Don Angie” in the West Village. 

“That was just a 4 percent COVID surcharge and he was OK with that. But sometimes you get a 10 percent surprise at the end. I mean, come on. We all want to help, but restaurants have to be transparent about it,” she said. 

A Don Angie source said the surcharge helps offset extra COVID costs, and that the eatery charged 4 percent instead of 10 percent because they didn’t want to gouge their customers. “So far,” the source said, “our customers have been very positive and supportive.” 

Restaurants that add the surcharge are required to warn the customer ahead of time. Many of them do this with a notice attached to the menu, but diners say it often goes unnoticed until the bill arrives. 

“It’s annoying, and the bigger the surcharge, the more annoying it gets,” said a diner who asked not to be named. “I’d rather they tell you up front, because even if it is written on the menu, you can miss it.” 

A Tribeca resident and tech firm COO said he was surprised when he was recently slapped with a 5 percent surcharge at Serafina. 

“It was very clear on the bill, but there was no message about it beforehand,” he said. “We always tip 25 percent after tax, so that COVID line item surcharge was significant.” 

A Serafina source said the restaurant tells customers about the surcharge verbally when they order. 

The local law is designed to expire 90 days after New York’s state of emergency is lifted. It’s unclear when that will happen even as dining capacity is set to return to 100 percent on May 19. 

City officials say there are currently no plans to take the pesky surcharge off the table. 

Aristotle “Telly” Hatzigeorgiou of Clinton Hall said the city’s resurgence has convinced him to do away with the 10 percent surcharge starting Friday. 

“Our hope is that this relaxation of the stringent rules will bring out diners,” he said. “And we want to reward those diners by eliminating the 10 percent charge that helped us get through the additional expenses to keep our staff and customers safe.” 

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Australia to fine tech giants, jail users over abusive posts

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Australia to fine tech giants, jail users over abusive posts

Tech giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google will be forced to swiftly remove abusive online posts or face stiff fines under a tough new law passed by the Australian government on Wednesday. 

The bold new legislation, called the Online Safety Bill, gives the country’s regulators the power to crack down on violent threats, revenge porn and other abusive posts on the internet. Users who create such posts face up to five years in prison. Tech platforms that do not remove them within 24 hours will be fined up to $415,000.

Australia’s government developed the 192-page bill in response to the 2019 mass shooting at a mosque in New Zealand, in which a white supremacist gunman killed 51 worshippers while live-streaming the murders on Facebook.

The Australian center-right government’s communications minister Paul Fletcher said the new law enables the country to “crack down on cyber-bullying of children, toxic online abuse, harmful content and the non-consensual sharing of intimate images.” Enforcement of the new law will begin in six months, he said.

A Twitter spokesperson told The Post that the company plans to comply with the law. 

“Twitter shares the Australian government’s strong commitment to online safety, and we make ongoing investments in this area to keep our users safe,” the spokesperson said. “Currently, our teams are reviewing the final version of the legislation and will be working closely with the government and eSafety Commissioner in the coming months as this law is implemented in Australia.” 

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

In a February statement, Facebook’s Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands public policy director Mia Garlick said the company broadly supported additional privacy regulation but said the bill’s breadth could lead to regulatory overreach and stifle political speech. 

Opponents including Australia’s Green Party have slammed the bill, arguing that it was pushed too quickly without debate. Online civil liberties group Electronic Frontiers Australia said that the bill gave far too much authority to the nation’s eSafety Commissioner.

“It is disturbing that the government plans to hand a large amount of largely unchecked power to a single person,” Electronic Frontiers Australia board member Justin Warren told Australian news site InnovationAus.

“The hasty drafting of the legislation has removed a variety of oversight mechanisms and safeguards that already exist, while extending Australia’s outdated censorship regime to cover private, person-to-person messages,” Warren added.

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NY to co-lead antitrust suit against Google over app store: report

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NY to co-lead antitrust suit against Google over app store: report

New York plans to co-lead a multi-state antitrust lawsuit against Google over the tech giant’s management of its mobile app store, according to a report.

The anticipated suit centers Google’s requirement that many Android app developers who sell products through the company’s store use Google payment tools and pay fees of up to 30 percent, Reuters reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

New York Attorney General Letitia James will reportedly co-lead the suit alongside the attorneys general of Tennessee, Utah and North Carolina. Other states may also join. 

A spokesperson for the New York attorney general’s office declined to comment.

“Android is the only major operating system that allows people to download apps from multiple app stores. In fact, most Android devices ship with two or more app stores preinstalled,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “This openness means that if developers choose not to distribute their apps on Google Play, they can still distribute their apps on the Android platform — and many do.”

The attorney generals’ gripes with Google echo Fortnite developer Epic Games’ high-profile suit against Apple over similar app store fees, which is expected to be decided in the coming weeks. 

The attorney generals’ suit against Google will reportedly be filed in the Northern District of California — the same federal court that is overseeing Epic v. Apple. 

In addition to suing Apple, Epic Games also filed a suit against Google last year, accusing it of having anticompetitive app store rules. The suit is expected to go to trial in 2022.

There also are two proposed class-action lawsuits over Google’s app store before the same Northern California judge. If New York and the other states co-leading the upcoming suit want to participate in depositions and other pre-trial activities in those suits, they would have to file soon, a source told Reuters. 

The news comes as Google faces new regulatory heat this week in Europe. On Tuesday, the European Union opened a formal antitrust probe into Google’s lucrative advertising business, which brings in about 80 percent of the company’s revenue. 

With Post Wires 

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Sweetgreen salad chain files for IPO

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Sweetgreen salad chain files for IPO

Salad chain sweetgreen said on Monday it had confidentially filed for an initial public offering in the US, hopeful of strong investor interest as demand for plant-based food products surges globally.

The company, which counts tennis star Naomi Osaka as its youngest investor, was valued at $1.8 billion after a funding round earlier this year, according to media reports. T.Rowe Price, Lone Pine Capital and D1 Capital Partners are among sweetgreen’s other investors.

California-based sweetgreen, which was founded in 2007 and has more than 100 stores in the US, did not reveal more details about the size of the proposed IPO.

Plant-based food companies have attracted investor attention over the past few years, particularly as more people gravitate to healthy and environment-friendly food.

Much of the demand is being led by millennials and generation Z consumers, who are more than willing to spend on sustainable products that are also healthy.

About 65 percent of Gen Z consumers are in favor of plant-based foods, sweetgreen says on its website.

Last year, plant-based retail sales in the US hit $7 billion, up 27 percent year-on-year, according to a report by the Good Food Institute and the Plant-Based Foods Association.

Swedish oatmilk maker Oatly Group AB, which went public last month, closed nearly 53 percent above its IPO price on Friday. Plant-based burger maker Beyond Meat was also up 16 percent this year.

Sweetgreen is home to such options as the Kale Caasar, Peach Burrata, and Harvest Bowl Houson, and Cashew Pesto Sweet Potato. The chain is the brainchild of three college students looking for healthier diet options.

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