A Chef Fights California’s Anti-Business Culture

“The chief business of the American people is business.”  —President Calvin Coolidge

I was snacking and drinking coffee recently at my favorite eatery, where the owner treats me like a long-lost brother.  His establishment is one of the few in L.A. in which the key ingredients of every menu item are the same: hard work and raw talent.

The Chef puts his heart and soul into every dish.  Whenever I leave his café, I always feel as if I have eaten a home-cooked meal of five-star quality!

I was eating a heavenly meal there yesterday, when I noticed the Chef standing in the beverage area.  He was frowning at a piece of paper in his hand.

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I walked up to the Chef and spied the top line of the document.  It read, “County of Los Angeles Public Health.”  His business name showed on the document.

There was a notation regarding “0-30 seats” and the words “High Risk” with a dollar amount next to it.  That amount was $1,049!  It was a tax bill the Chef would see yearly.

The tax man had been to the restaurant immediately upon its opening, in order to collect L.A.’s share!  The Chef was still reeling from the monetary attack on his new establishment.

taxman cometh

I imagined a menacing character, wearing a dark suit and eyeshades.  In my mind’s eye, I saw the Chef guarding the pocket of his chef’s apron, but the man in black brushed the chef’s hand aside, reached into the pocket, and removed all the cash on hand.  He stared at the man in black.  Feeling defeated, he wiped perspiration from his brow.

“More than a thousand dollars,” muttered the Chef, bringing me back to the moment at hand.  He was visibly agitated, and who could blame him?  There was also the matter of another $262.25 for “Public Health Services,” although the Chef said the kitchen inspector had stayed for only a few minutes.

Was the inspection just another excuse for a tax?  “Yes,” I affirmed, “it’s just another tax.”  Then there was the Department of Water & Power.  They had required a $1,000 deposit to turn on the power.  And they had charged $1,800, in advance, for electric usage.

The Chef’s diner is small, with only five or six tables and 20 or 30 chairs, yet he had already had to pay Water & Power $2,800!  “L.A. also collects a business tax of $5.07 for every $1,000 in gross receipts, in addition to the normal sales tax it collects,” the Chef said wearily.

I decided it might be good to change the subject.  I was growing concerned for my friend and thought it might bring a spot of joy to the conversation.  I sipped my coffee and asked, “When do you plan to hang your shingle in front of the café?”

“Not anytime soon,” was the reply.  “L.A., taxes a business $200 annually just to have a sign up.”  Everywhere we turned in our conversation, another tax sprang up.

The Chef’s eyes were beginning to look tired.  Here was a man who rose at five in the morning, ran his errands early, and got his business ready to open by ten.  He stayed open until late—ten-thirty some nights.  And he was there seven days a week!

The Chef poured more coffee into my cup.  His hand was shaking.  How horrible of the City to treat a businessman with such unfairness!

cleanersAll the Chef wanted was to create something good, something exceptional!  Not only did he envision this particular café as being a success, but he could see the day when he would be able to hire more employees and open more restaurants.

In L.A., the struggle with tax burdens would be an ongoing challenge.  The City’s policy of stunting the growth of burgeoning businesses, with high taxes, runs counter to the principle of promoting growth it should share with the business community.

A big city like L.A. should lower its taxes.  The decreased tax rates would spur growth, eventually causing the local economy to reach the point of higher tax collections than before.  This would enrich the City and the business community alike.

The jobs that could be created, by utilizing this tax-cut stimulus, would be a boon to the community.  L.A. seems to have forgotten that small business creates 40% of all the jobs.  More—not less—job creation is what is needed.

The Chef wanted to create a business that would benefit many, using his culinary skills as the vehicle for doing so.  Bringing his exquisite recipes to life was his way of offering a great benefit, both to the world and to his family.

I could not stop thinking of how difficult it must be for the Chef to sacrifice family time, to work so hard while worrying that the greedy hand of government would reach out to grab still more of his earnings.

Getting a business started is a hard enough challenge, without having to worry about the government.  People’s dreams are important.  And the government should not make the pursuit of them into a nightmare.

The City of L.A. provides little or no support to its businesses, with almost no sympathy for the fact that small business owners must pay themselves last.  Many businesses are, indeed, giving up on L.A. and moving to Phoenix, Dallas, or Houston!

The challenges before the Chef—indeed, for the small-business community at large—are daunting ones.  And solving them will be an uphill battle.

I finished my snack, wished the Chef well, said good night, and departed.  I saw him through the glass façade of his diner, diligently working in his kitchen, as I drove away.

With all the Chef’s labor and talent, succeeding in business in L.A. will still take a superhuman effort on his part.  I can only hope that the Chef will find himself up to the challenge.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com

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