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National Restaurant Association - How can policymakers spur tourism and economic growth? Reduce regulatory red tape for restaurants

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How can policymakers spur tourism and economic growth? Reduce regulatory red tape for restaurants

Days after opening new restaurants, Chefs Victor Albisu and Marjorie Meek-Bradley shared the challenges of getting their businesses off the ground at our Sept. 13 event on Capitol Hill.

“Our industry is evolving,” said Meek-Bradley, who came to the hearing straight from lunch rush at Smoked and Stacked, her new restaurant in the Washington Convention Center. Policymakers need a better understanding of those changes, including the difference between fast food and fast casual. Regulations barring quickservice restaurants in certain areas delayed the opening of her fast casual operation.

Alluding to excessive red tape, she shared a joke among her colleagues in the D.C. restaurant community: a restaurant slated to open in the spring will open the following spring.

“I’ve seen restaurants held up because the toilet was a half-inch off,” said Albisu, who opened his second Taco Bamba restaurant last week in northern Virginia. Albisu also owns Del Campo in Washington.

The National Restaurant Association helped organized the event in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association, to explore the connection between restaurants and travel and tourism. It was sponsored by Senate Travel and Tourism Caucus Co-Chairs Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

Klobuchar shared anecdotes from her first jobs, including a stint at A&W Root Beer. Later, she worked at Baker Square Pie Shop, where she was demoted to pie cutter after repeatedly spilling ice tea on a customer. Her colleagues benefitted by getting to eat all the pies she destroyed. “After that failure, I became a lawyer.”

On a serious note, Klobuchar noted that people no longer consider tourism a “boutique cause” and understand that it represents 10 percent of the economy.

In addition to Albisu and Meek-Bradley, panelists were Karen Profita, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Board; Cicely Simpson, executive vice president, policy and government affairs, National Restaurant Association; and Patricia Rojas-Ungar, vice president, government relations, U.S. Travel. Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery restaurant served samples of shrimp creole after the panel discussion.

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