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Advocacy Report


[Our Organization] T

his legislative session, we reviewed 2,328 pieces of legislation, hard-tracked 120 and took action on 25. Some bills we advocated for, like the Garnishment Bill (HB 683), help keep thousands of hardearned dollars in your business. Others, like the Brewpub Bill (HB 472), help our independent brewpub members to grow and expand. There were also bills which we successfully opposed, like Paid Sick Leave (HB 432), which would have placed mandatory requirements on a voluntary benefit. Having spent my entire career as an operator, I know first-hand the hard work that goes into being a restaurateur. The long hours, the attention to detail, the commitment to service. Now, in my role as Executive Director of our state’s non-profit restaurant trade association, I call on many of the same skills I used in my restaurants. And with new perspective, I see more clearly than ever the need to have a dedicated advocate and one voice for the restaurant industry.

Put simply, as a restaurant operator, you don’t have time to review thousand of pieces of proposed legislation. But as an industry, we cannot afford to let all bills go unchecked. That’s why we’re here. Three members of our staff are registered as State lobbyists, we utilize a legislative tracking service, and keep you up-to-date through our weekly Advocacy Bulletins. We have become a reliable source of information, utilized by members, legislators and media alike. Make no mistake, we face real emerging challenges and uncertainties- from “gotcha” regulations to severe workforce issues . These threaten our livelihood and that of our employees. But one thing is certain. Whether your business is big or small, we stand taller and stronger when we stand together. So stand with us, and help spread the word. Because the business you save, may very well be your own.

Karen Bremer Executive Director, Georgia Restaurant Association

23 Board Members Leading. 8 Staff Members Serving. 1 Voice for Our Industry. Meet the GRA Staff Karen I. Bremer, Executive Director Katie Jones, Public Affairs Coordinator Tashana Thomas, ServSafe® Manager Joline Falco, ServSafe® Marketing Manager Ryan Costigan, Manager of Membership Cathy Sterling, Membership Development Associate Yvonne Morgan, Membership Services Coordinator Kelly Hornbuckle, Director of Marketing & Communications Rachel Mathews, Marketing & Communications Coordinator


The Voice of Georgia’s Restaurants Advocacy|Education|Awareness 3520 Piedmont Road | Suite 130 Atlanta, GA 30305 p: 404.467.9000 | tollfree: 866.467.2201 f: 404.467.2206

Advisory Board

Board of Directors

Phil Hickey, CEO, Jocks II, Inc. Pano Karatassos, Founder & CEO, Buckhead Life Restaurant Group Alan LeBlanc, Owner, Max Lager's Wood-Fired Grill & Brewery, White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails George McKerrow Jr., Co-Founder & CEO, Ted's Montana Grill John C. Metz, Executive Chef & Co-Founder, Aqua Blue, Marlow’s Tavern, Sterling Spoon Culinary Management Nancy Oswald, Co-Owner/Franchisee, Ruth’s Chris Steak House M. Anderson (Andy) Piper, Director of Field Operations, Chick-fil-A Jim Squire, Chairman Emeritus, Firestorm

Paul Baldasaro - Buckhead Life Restaurant Group Tory Bartlett - Hooters of America, LLC Archna Becker - Bhojanic Will Bernardi - Carrabba's Italian Grill, O.S. I. Restaurant Partners Kathleen Ciaramello - Coca-Cola Refreshments Chris Coan - Gas South Cathy Colasanto - Turner Food & Spirits Co. Walt Davis - Retail Data Systems Michael Deihl - East Lake Golf Club Dale Gordon DeSena - Taste of Atlanta/DG Publishing & Event Sponsorship Jo Ann Herold - Arby's Restaurant Group Inc. Perry McGuire - Smith,Gambrell & Russell, LLP Mick Miklos - Waffle House Corporation Mike Ruberti - Chick-fil-A, Inc. Peter Servold - Church's Chicken Steve Simon - Fifth Group Restaurants Martin Tanenbaum - Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, LLP Ryan Turner - Local Three and Muss & Turner's

Executive Committee Chair - Patrick Cuccaro, Affairs to Remember Caterers Vice Chair - Hank Clark, Sterling Hospitality/ Marlow's Tavern Past-Chair - Anthony Joseph, Concessions International Secretary - Bob Campbell, Tappan Street Restaurant Group Treasurer - Clay Mingus, La Cima Restaurants

Katie Jones, Kelly Hornbuckle, Karen Bremer, Rhonda McMillan and Ryan Costigan at the GRA-NRA PAC Fundraiser at Canoe. Photo: Andrew Snook

Patrick Cuccaro, Chef Kevin Gillespie, Chef Chris Hall, Ryan Turner and Chef Michael Deihl at the Taste of Georgia Reception. Photo: Travis S. Taylor


[Advocacy] It is the single most important thing we do. If something happened and the Georgia Restaurant Association had to close up shop today, it would not be long before an untenable regulation would be imposed somewhere in Georgia. At that point, restaurateurs would bind together to fight the regulation. Quickly, they would realize that their time, effort and energy are better spent pooling their resources to hire a full-time advocate. And with that, the GRA would be reborn. Through membership dues, Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions and sponsorships, we are able to carry out our advocacy work on a national and state level during this critical time.

“Thank you for fighting for us in this difficult environment. You are doing a great job.” Dual membership in the National Restaurant Association means you’re represented at our nation’s capitol on a range of issues - from Health Care Reform to Labor Relations.

National Victories 1. Debit Card Swipe Fee Reform - After nearly a year of work, the Federal

Reserve announced that it would cap debit card "swipe fees" for merchants at 21 cents per transaction. This saves Georgia businesses an average of $304.07 for every $100,000 processed.

2. Menu Labeling - We strongly supported and advocated for this law that provides for uniform and consistent nutrition information in restaurants nationwide. The FDA is reviewing comments, including those filed by the NRA, and intends to implement the law later this year.

3. 1099 Mandate Repeal - This mandate would have required restaurants to file 1099s on all non-credit card purchase of at least $600 in a year from a particular vendor. It was part of 2010's health care overhaul law and is the first provision of the law to be repealed.

GRA Members with Governor Nathan Deal at Public Affairs Day


Karen Bremer, Mayor Kasim Reed and Kat Cole at the Atlanta Fulton County Hospitality Day PAC Fundraiser. Photo: Spravka Imaging

Senator Johnny Isakson at the GRA-NRA PAC Fundraiser. Photo: Andrew Snook

State Victories

Chris Coan, Governor and First Lady Deal, Archna Becker. Photo: Leonardo Ruscitto

The GRA has 3 registered lobbyists on staff and hosted 3 PAC Fundraisers. We also presented the Inaugural Chairman’s Award to Helen Kim Ho for her action against immigration reform. This year was the second part of the two-year legislative cycle. These are just some of our accomplishments.

1.Pizza Variance - We applied for and received a new variance in the food code allowing bare hands to be used for "ready-to-eat" pizza toppings which are then cooked at 165 degrees or more for at least 15 seconds. This is something the GRA and NRA have been working on since the release of the 2006 food code, and it is in line with FDA Standards.

2.Garnishment - Grants businesses the power to file garnishment requests through authorized personnel instead of having to hire legal counsel. To quote one restaurant member, "Thank you - you have saved me thousands of dollars already!"

3. Brewpub - Increases the number of barrels a brewpub can produce and allows them to resell to wholesale distributors. In addition to being good news for our brewpub members, we believe it will also help with economic development in our state.

4. Violence Bill - This would have assigned penalties for establishments that serve alcoholic beverages and have repeated acts of violence occur on or around the premises. We were able to thwart this bill which could have caused major liability issues for restaurants.

5. Immigration - HB 87 is bad. But it could have been so much worse. Thanks to a broad coalition, we were able to stave off Alabama-style legislation. After compiling the Restaurant Labor Impact Survey results and sharing them with legislators, they are now much more receptive to the need for sensible, comprehensive immigration reform on a national level.

6. Sunday Sales - In 127 cities and counties across Georgia, referendums to permit the Sunday retail sale of alcohol had an 82 percent success rate. The GRA supports the right of local communities to make this decision, and also offers ServSafe Alcohol Training to businesses.

7. Savannah Port- We supported both SR 312, endorsing efforts to deepen the port, and HR 251, proposing construction of a cruise ship terminal facility in the Savannah Harbor.


[Action Tracker] The real dollar value of GRA membership far exceeds the cost of dues, even if you only consider advocacy and representation. Our Action Tracker shows the many ways we fought for you this legislative session. Add up the cost of what it would take for you to fund similar legislative efforts and you’ll find membership is one of the best investments you can make.

“It's all of us - collectively coming together to raise our voice, to inform, to educate, to defend between right and wrong and to protect the future of our industry.” We Won the NRA’s “"Rookie of the Year" Award for our GRA-NRA PAC Fundraiser


1.Our Economic Impact - The GRA testified at the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee on January 24th during Georgia Tourism Day regarding the restaurant industry’s impact on Georgia’s economy.

2.Immigration Reform - We testified at a House public hearing regarding our support of the proposed Rural Recovery Act, HB 810 E-Verification modification, as well as to the Senate Democratic Special Committee on Immigration & Georgia Economy's Public Forum on the Updated HB87 Immigration Legislation.

3. Beer, Wine & Spirits - We were one of the only groups to testify to the House Committee on Regulated Industries regarding on-premise tasting at state distilleries, wine tastings, and increasing beer production and allowing distribution through wholesaler.

4. Tax Court - We testified to the House Judiciary Committee in support of a tax court. We believe this will allow for an efficient, streamlined resolution process and will increase the uniformity of decisions in tax cases – alleviating some of the unpredictability restaurateurs have been experiencing in the recent proliferation of tax audits.


Lee Gray, Roz Mallet, Karen Bremer, Ryan Turner, Ron Horgan, Ryan Costigan & Nancy Oswald at the Taste of Georgia Reception. Photo: Leonardo Ruscitto

Fighting For You

Commissioner Black, Chef Hilary White, Chef Kevin Gillespie, Chef Holly Chute & Chef Michael Deihl Unveil the GA Grown Chef Program Photo: Leonardo Ruscitto

1.Filing Commentary - They say the devil is in the details. Well, we reviewed thousands of details before submitting our comments on the proposed adoption of the 2009 FDA food code. We solicited direct feedback from those who would be affected - restaurants, caterers, distributors, incubator kitchens and mobile food trucks .We’ve also submitted commentary to the Georgia Department of Revenue (GA DOR). Through the commentary process, we give restaurants a seat at the table, and a voice in drafting the rules and regulations that affect their day-to-day operations.

2.Taking Action - Whether it’s writing letters, making phone calls, or sitting down face-toface, we’ve served as the voice of Georgia’s restaurants by communicating with our elected officials on the following issues: Repeal 1099 Reporting Requirements, Oppose NLRB Poster Ruling, Repeal New Health Insurance Tax (HIT), Oppose Portman Amendment on Senate Highway Bill, Support H.R. 1744 - American Job Protection Act/Employer Mandate Repeal, Oppose DOL Changes to TipCredit Regulations, Support S. 687/H.R. 1265 - Restaurant Depreciation, Support H.R. 527 - Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, Support H.R. 2082 – Work Opportunity Tax Credit, Support Durbin Amendment - Interchange Swipe Fee Reform, Support NRA Amicus Brief with Supreme Court on Health Care Law, Support Pro-Growth Tax Policy: Individual Tax Reform for Small Businesses, Oppose Exclusion of Grocery Stores and Convenience Stores from the Requirements of Menu Labeling, Support SNAP Restaurant Meals Program, Support City of Atlanta Municipal Option Sales Tax (MOST), Oppose City of Atlanta Alcohol Tax, Oppose Savannah Server Bar Card for Restaurant Employees, and many more.

3. Meeting with Decision Makers - One of the reasons we were so successful this legislative session is that we were strategic in our conversations with decision makers. Part of our mission is to educate on the depth and breadth of our industry. We are the second-largest private sector employer, and are responsible for one 16th of state tax revenue. When our elected officials understand our impact, it becomes easier to explain how severe unintended consequences could be. By and large, we found a receptive audience, eager to keep our state business-friendly. For example, we met with the authors and sponsors of key bills to ensure our members - from independents to chains - were heard. And this session, our voice was heard loud and clear. We were able to thank Governor Deal personally for signing the Garnishment bill into law so quickly; keeping money in your pocket. In addition to Governor Deal, Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, State Attorney General Sam Olens, GA DOR Commissioner Doug MacGinnitie, State School Superintendent John Barge, Senator Johnny Isakson, Senator Tommie Williams, and Roz Mallet, Chair of the National Restaurant Association, have all addressed our members over the past year.


[Bill Tracking] Bill



HB 683-Garnishment

Grants businesses the power to file garnishment requests instead of having to hire legal counsel. Saves members thousands of dollars.

Successfully Supported Signed into Law

HB 472-Brewpub

Increases the amount of beer brewpubs can produce annual from 5,000 to 10,000 barrels, and allows sales to distributors.

Successfully Supported Passed House & Senate

HB 100-Tax Court

Establishes a tax court, providing streamlined resolution and alleviating unpredictability in recent proliferation of tax audits.

Successfully Supported Passed House & Senate

HB 514-Distilled Spirits

Allows for free on-premise tastings at distilleries.

Successfully Supported Passed House & Senate

HB 713-Quality Education

Extends by one year the planning period to better prepare the career pathways initiative. We are advising on the hospitality pathway.

Successfully Supported Passed House & Senate

HB 347Unemployment

Cuts length of state unemployment benefits, increases rate. We don’t support rate increase, but do support stabilizing the fund.

Neutral Passed House & Senate

HB 1066-Alcohol License & Fees

Staggers license renewal dates, changes provisions on distance requirements and license fees for special event applicants.

Successfully Supported Passed House & Senate

HB 432-Paid Sick Leave

Would have placed mandatory restrictions on a voluntary benefit. We support flexibility for restaurants to determine their benefits.

Successfully Opposed

Georgia Restaurants by the Numbers... Sales

In 2012, Georgia’s restaurants are projected to register $15.2 billion in sales.


In 2009, there were 16,345 eating and drinking places in Georgia.

The Power of $1

Every $1 spent at restaurants generates $1.31 for our economy.

The Power of $1 Million

Every $1 million spent at restaurants generates an extra 29.2 jobs in the state.


Restaurants employ 374,000 people in Georgia.

2012 Jobs

2022 Jobs



Restaurant Jobs Are


Of Georgia’s Workforce


Job Growth

Over the Next Decade

Piedmont Place | 3520 Piedmont Road | Suite 130 | Atlanta, GA 30305 p: 404.467.9000 | tollfree: 866.467.2201 | f: 404.467.2206 |

Advocacy Report 2012  

Advocacy is a major focus of the Georgia Restaurant Association’s (GRA) mission. We take pride in our responsibility to represent the best i...

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