If you took a survey of people around the world and asked them the first word or phrase they thought when you mentioned the United States, two of the most popular words would be "hamburger" and "Hollywood." So, you could say, this week's Midnight Snack may just be the most stereotypically American possibility around.
In the middle of Hollywood, just a block away from the Arclight on Sunset Boulevard, I met attorney Rachel Wilkes Barchie at The Bowery and we discussed the law, restaurants and mighty good burgers.
Jason: How did you first find The Bowery?
Rachel: Actually a close friend of mine from law school knows the owner. He's worked a million different jobs out of law school but one of his jobs when we were first out of school was working at a place to help restaurants get entitlements. You know, liquor licenses, that kind of thing. So, he got to know people in the restaurant industry and one of the people he knows opened The Bowery. It has really good burgers so I kept coming back.
Jason: I looked at the menu beforehand and I can already tell I'm going to be getting a burger.
Rachel: Yeah, exactly. That's the thing to have here. I actually think it was named best burger in L.A. maybe last year.
Jason: That's a good thing.
Rachel: That's a pretty bold statement. Are we going to go with burgers and split the sides? Is that the thought?
Jason: Yes. Awesome. I'm going to go with a burger with cheddar and bacon. And a side of the onion rings and regular fries.
Rachel: I would like caramelized onions, mushrooms and avocado. Medium well.
Jason: You mentioned your friend getting entitlements and things like that for restaurants and it immediately segues into your work on getting a restaurant group set up?
Rachel: Yeah. It's interesting because it's something I first thought of because I do litigation and also employment work. I've been working on a case this past year representing a restaurant in Beverly Hills that was sued in a wage/hour class action. I had to do all this research about the nitty-gritty of laws that affect restaurants and in particular about tip pooling, and how you schedule meal and rest breaks for when you have people at a high-end restaurant. So I started thinking that we're a full-service firm, there must be a lot of people doing work for various things involving restaurants. I started to put feelers out and I realized that there is a ton of people doing work in different areas around restaurants. It's not kind of creating something from scratch that wasn't already there, it's more like labeling it and trying to brand it and that's what I'm trying to do right now. Turn it into kind of a package, I guess.
Jason: If you're a restaurant and you need help in the business of being a restaurant and all the legal set-ups then you come to...
Rachel: Exactly. You come to us. I mean employment, leasing, alcohol permits, land use issues, litigation issues, trademarks, intellectual property, and a bunch of different areas.
Jason: I had a friend that was working for a firm at one time and it seemed like a big time commitment.
Rachel: It is. The first year or two at the firm I didn't take any vacation. I would take long weekends here and there but I wouldn't take any real vacations because I feel like I'm too busy. Then I just realized that if you don't plan it, it's never going to happen. You just have to plan it, but plan it super far in advance. Like for our wedding and our honeymoon, we had the day a year in advance and we're going to be gone during this time. No one's going to tell us otherwise. Oh my gosh, this looks so delicious.
Jason: Oh goodness yes.
Rachel: And really messy. This is really good. How's yours?
Jason: I'm very impressed with it. It's a darn good burger. I kind of like the English muffin as a bun.
Rachel: I like it too. Often, the burger is kind of overcome by the bun. You have a small meat-to-bun ratio. This huge burger and smaller bun is kind of better. I was trying to help myself by cutting the burger in half, but I think I actually made it worse because it's harder to hold it together.
Jason: Part of me was thinking about it, but I decided to just go with it.
Rachel: I think you made the right call.
Jason: There's still a lot of time for it to go wrong. It might be that the cheese and the bacon help kind of hold it together. It's like burger glue. When you mention wage and tip pools, how does that work?
Rachel: So, it's really interesting. The case law is kind of all over the place and it's already starting to be a huge issue, but I think it's going to become an even bigger issue because cases have come out about it. Basically it's kind of a common practice, I think for servers especially, to pool tips. In other words, when you eat at a restaurant and leave a tip, that tip doesn't necessarily just go to your server. Often it will be combined with all the tips that all the servers received, and it will be divvied up among the server, sometimes the busboys, in certain circumstances maybe the host or the bartender. Depending on what the particular circumstances are at the restaurant, it could be legit or not legit for all the various people to be sharing in the tip pool. Then it kind of comes down to what percentage of the tip pool should each of these people be getting.
Jason: So, the restaurant is kind of taking charge of the tips instead of the people?
Rachel: Often there will be some kind of point system. It can be based on seniority. When you're a server that's been there for a certain amount of time, maybe you'll get more points or less points if you haven't been there as long. That's all fine as long as it's within the constraints, as long as these are the people that you can sort of deem the tips to have been left for. It's this weird thing where you have to get inside the mind of the patron. Who does the patron expect is getting the tip? That's something that is kind of impossible to do, but of course you're having to do it because the law basically says that no employer can take any gratuity that belongs to whoever the tip is left for. That just begs the question, who is the tip left for?
Jason: I worked for a summer as a busboy and that's my only experience with tips. If the waitresses had a good day they'd give me twenty bucks. I was just like, I get more money? This is awesome.
6268 Sunset Boulevard
[Photos by Ryan Kellman]