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Restaurant receives threats for charging extra fee for employees’ health insurance

By Asia Wilson

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    ATLANTA (WANF) — JenChan’s, a family-owned restaurant in the Cabbagetown area of Atlanta is turning heads.

The restaurant that opened six months before the pandemic is now garnering attention because it’s charging customers a health insurance fee for its full-time employees.

The following message is posted outside the restaurant, on all menus and at the bottom of each receipt.

“On your receipt, you will notice 4% health insurance we implemented after our premiums more than tripled last year. Thank you for being a part of our effort to ensure our staff can seek care for whatever mental or physical ailments they may face. We have appreciated all of the positive feedback from you, thank you! Please know that we will be more than happy to remove this for you without hesitation.”

Owner Emily Chan said this has been in place for more than a year.

“We’ve only done this for a year and a half right,” Chan said. So, at the end of last year, we were able to cut a very small check, cause that was it. There wasn’t a lot left over, but there was a little bit, to the employees who were on health insurance,” Chan said. ‘Well, this year, it covered every single thing, and it was $2,000 off which means that 4% is just like it’s almost the perfect amount of money to cover everyone’s premiums.”

So why is the restaurant doing this?

“We feel like there’s a pretty huge crisis going on with health insurance. No one can afford it. Nothing has worked. We still have an employee that got turned down from health insurance this year. We have three different carries for our small team, and we just felt like if we put it as a line item, then it would highlight that there’s an issue here and we need to pay attention to it,” Chan said.

Recently, the owner’s family has received threats about the extra fee. Restaurant staff said one customer in particular was upset about paying $2 extra.

“They ate food here, dined in and said nothing while they were here and went online to spill some nastiness about not just the health insurance but physically threatening Emily and Jen and their kid online,” said Sam Hammer, lead bartender at the restaurant.

“Our owners take care of us by including a little charge for our health insurance and it’s for all of our full-time employees, including me,” Hammer said.

Hammer said he’s been there since 2022, and really needed his own insurance since he just got off his parents.

“I don’t have money like that and so I was just living my life without it and finally found this job randomly and I fell in love with the people and the place and because of them, I’m able to have health insurance. It’s a special thing. It’s not an industry standard at all,” Hammer said. “I appreciate them for taking care of me too,” he added.

Atlanta News First spoke to many customers off camera who each said they were happy to help out the employees.

“It’s been pretty awesome, and we’ve been really busy this weekend just people saying, “Hey I hear what you’re doing for your employees. I work in the restaurant industry, and we never had health insurance,” Chan said.

Chan and Hammer said most of the backlash has come from people in other areas of the country.

“The locals in Cabbagetown were like, this is dope. We have no problem paying a little extra couple of dollars,” Hammer said.

Chan said she hopes this will bring changes to the industry.

“I want people to talk about this. That’s why we have it as a line item, is because I feel like it’s worth a conversation. There’s an issue,” Chan said.

For now, Chan said she’s not changing a thing.

“Not changing a thing. The only thing I would change is if Congress does something, then I can just take that line item off completely and not even worry about it,” Chan said.

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