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California Liberals Ban the Free Lunch

Who would have ever thought that California liberals would want to put a stop to a free lunch? Well, it’s happening, due to tech companies providing free food to their employees so they don’t have to leave the building to eat.

Observer – In San Francisco, many local restaurants are suffering from a shrinking customer base as a result of an increasing number of tech companies in the area that offer employees free lunches provided by company-owned cafeteria. The problem has become so dire that the city is considering a new law to prohibit new companies entering the area from running employee cafeterias.

But as it turns out, San Francisco is hardly the only place in America’s hot tech scene that’s mulling an “anti-free lunch” campaign.

Facebook, which offers employees fully subsidized meals on its main campus in Menlo Park, Calif., won’t be able to offer the same perk to employees at its new campus in Mountain View, Calif.,  home to Google and about 50 miles away from San Francisco.

Merlone Geier Partners, the developer of Facebook’s new office space, San Antonio Center, which is currently under development, has an agreement with the city, passed in 2014, that bans office occupants from opening their own cafeteria, as part of an effort to promote nearby restaurants.

Facebook will still be allowed to offer snacks and beverages to employees, though. The bottom line is that the company can’t subsidize over 50 percent of employees’ meals within the Facebook offices. However, it is allowed to fully subsidize meals bought at restaurants that are open to the public.

“We believe these companies are part of our community,” Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel told NPR last week. “A growing number of their employees live in our community, and we want them to be a part of our community.”

NPR – Siegel, a Democrat, says that for years, restaurant owners have complained that employees of Google never come out to eat or shop. So when the city learned that Facebook would be opening a new office in the fall of 2018 at a building project known as the Village at San Antonio Center, the city passed a project-specific requirement that bars the company from providing free daily meals to employees at any in-house cafeteria. The company is also prevented from providing deeply discounted meals.

In all my years, I never thought I’d see the day when Democrats would want to stop people from getting something for free.

While it may sound like this is protecting local restaurants and businesses, the method used is akin to a mafia shakedown. Perhaps the city would be satisfied if Facebook agreed to make regular payments to local restaurants so their employees could still get free food from the company cafeteria. They could call it ‘protection’ money. I half expected to see another law being passed banning employees from bringing their own lunches to work. The Mountain View city government could create a Lunch Patrol, tasked with seeking out and citing tech employees who dare to brown-bag it.

While this might sound a bit silly, there’s a dangerous precedent being set by these liberal city governments.

The city is telling a company that they are prohibited from providing a perk to their employees that is designed to keep employees happy, on-site, and productive. The city is telling employees that they will not be receiving a perk they would otherwise have enjoyed and that they are going to have to spend money at local restaurants or bring their lunch from home. The city is telling the local restaurants that they can use the power of the government to force local companies to ensure the restaurants stay solvent.

Government should not be in the business of supplying customers to local restaurants. Market conditions change and it is not the role of government to protect restaurants and businesses from those changes. The basic law of supply and demand applies here and the city government is using its enforcement power to affect the demand.

Before Facebook planned this new location, these restaurants were already in operation and had planned their business strategy based on the available supply of customers at that time. They shouldn’t even need Facebook employees to keep their restaurants open. Any additional business they might get from Facebook employees would just be above what they had already planned on needing to stay open.

If the local restaurants can’t stay open on their own by attracting customers, they will close. That’s the nature of the restaurant business. Restaurants come and restaurants go. Using the local government to force companies to provide them with customers is nothing but a shakedown. I wonder how long before the city will offer Facebook ‘fire insurance.’

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