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International Culinary Tours Can Raise Reputation of Local Chefs

Chefs spend long hours in the kitchen, perfecting their craft to the delight of their patrons.  But with the rise of the celebrity chef, many are finding creative ways to get out of the kitchen while still delivering palate-pleasing experiences for their clients.

Missy Fredrick of The Washington Business Journal recently reported on the international culinary tours that three local restaurateurs hosted in the past few years.  Local chefs, K.N. Vinod, Guillermo Pernot and Domenico Cornacchia have organized culinary tours in Italy,Cuba, and South India, respectively.  Chefs Mike Isabella and Barton Seaver have also participated in domestic tours through the well-known Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner Series.

These tours offer a unique experience for both host chefs and patrons.  Attendees obtain access to specialty farms and vineyards, which are not part of normal travel tours, and chefs gain increased exposure for their restaurants.

Interested in hosting such a tour?  Besides coordinating flights and travel schedules, organizers should also keep in mind some legal considerations:

Visa Issues –  U.S.citizens may be required to obtain visas to enter certain countries or special licenses. Russia and Brazil, for example, require U.S.citizens to obtain visas to enter their countries.   Moreover, Pernot’s trip to Cuba required the issuance of a special license as vacation travel to Cuba has been illegal for Americans since the United States imposed a total economic embargo against the island in 1962.

Liability Release & Waivers – Travel, international or not, is fraught with potential risks (food poisoning, medical emergencies, bodily injury due to accidents), therefore, it is important to craft a detailed release form for all participants.  Provisions should include release of liability, indemnification, consent to medical attention, and a release for any promotional use of photos of guests on the trip.

Insurance – Business owners should review their general liability insurance to determine if it covers international travel and if not, business owners should purchase foreign liability insurance coverage, to protect their business against costly legal actions arising from events occurring outside the United States.   Owners should also require all attendees to have medical insurance or purchase traveler’s insurance.

These are just a few legal issues to consider when planning a culinary tour.  If you are interested in hosting a culinary tour, an experienced lawyer can help determine and advise you on the various legal issues that may exist with your next culinary tour.

Chef’s Go Fresh Motorcycle Tour Promotes Local Produce

On Monday, July 16th,  a caravan of motorcycles drove 110 miles through Maryland agriculture and wine country for the Second Annual Chef’s Go Fresh Event.   The motorcycle tour, founded by Chef Robert Wiedmaier, and organized this year by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Georgetown Media Group, publishers of The Georgetowner newspaper, encourages local chefs and restaurateurs to purchase local produce for their restaurants in order to reduce the carbon footprint created by transporting food products long distances.

The chefs’ first stop was at Shepherds Manor Creamery in New Windsor, which produces artisan sheep cheese, and later,  Black Ankle Vineyards in Mount Airy, Maryland.   The day ended with a late lunch hosted by Frederick’s Top Chef finalist Bryan Voltaggio at Family Meal, his new restaurant in Frederick, Maryland.

Participants included Chefs Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel’s, Brasserie Beck, Brabo, The Tasting Room and Mussel Bar and Paul Stearman of Marcel’s,  Chef Thomas Elder of Härth, Chef Luigi Diotaiuti of  Al Tiramisu, Chef Ryan Fichter of Thunderburger, Pastry Chef Allison Blakely of Pie Sisters, and Chef Demetrio Zavala of Lincoln.

Changes to the District’s Alcohol Laws Debated at D.C. Council Committee Hearing

During a five hour hearing by the D.C. Council Committee on Human Services, over 30 witnesses testified about the Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Amendment Act of 2012.  Chairman Jim Graham (Ward One) presided over the hearing and mediated between the concerns of local restaurant owners and neighborhood community leaders.

The amendments to the bill are a result of a taskforce, assembled by Chairman Graham, which met from December 2011 until April 2012, to help draft the legislation.  The taskforce consisted of 26 stakeholders including 14 Advisory Neighborhood Council (“ANC”) Commissioners, six alcohol licensees, two Business Improvement District (“BID”) representatives, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, and government officials.

Out of the 43 changes proposed by the taskforce and codified in the bill, the most controversial provisions relate to 1) standing requirements for a D.C. resident to protest an alcohol license; 2) the conditions that are permitted in Voluntary Agreements; and 3) the enforcement of noise complaints against licensees.

Standing Requirements to Protest a License:

Currently, D.C. Code § 25-601 lists the persons or entities that may protest a new alcohol license as 1) an abutting property owner to the establishment; 2) a group of five D.C. residents;  3) a property owner within 600 feet of the establishment; 3) a citizen’s association; and 4) affected ANCs.

The new regulation would require the group of five residents to live within 400 feet of the establishment.  During the hearings, it was established that 400 feet is the equivalent of one city block, which many of the neighborhood witnesses believed was too restrictive, although most conceded some geographical limitation is appropriate.

Voluntary Agreement Provisions:

The D.C. code does not enumerate what types of provisions a Voluntary Agreement may contain, but the new regulations provides greater clarity as to what types of restrictions or affirmative requirements may be imposed on the licensee regarding entertainment, noise, litter, parking, security, hours of operation, and occupancy.

Additionally, Section § 25-446 is to be amended to give Voluntary Agreements negotiated between ANCs and applicants precedent over Cooperative Agreements negotiated between residents and applicants.   Graham corrected a typo in the current bill, which states that once a Voluntary Agreement is signed between an ANC and the applicant, all other protests would be dismissed by the ABRA board.

The purpose of this provision is to reduce the number of duplicate voluntary agreements, unnecessary paperwork and extreme delays in the licensing process caused by duplicate protest groups.  It was included to give due respect to the opinions of the democratically elected representatives of the ANCs and grant them greater weight in the process.  However, Graham noted that the bill, as drafted, mischaracterized the process.  Protests by neighborhood associations would not be dismissed after a Voluntary Agreement with an ANC is signed, and any Cooperative Agreement signed prior to the Voluntary Agreement with the ANC would be incorporated into the final Board Order.

Enforcement of Noise Complaints:

Two solutions proposed by new regulations to help abate the noise issues between establishments and neighbors is to require ABRA to maintain a noise complaint line and track noise complaints and to require all mixed use buildings, constructed after January 1, 2013, to be built with a minimum sound transmission class rating.

Ernest D. Jarvis, President of the D.C. Building Industry Association testified against such a blanket provision for any new mixed use building, citing the economic burden placed on builders, and Nicholas Majett, Director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), echoed Mr. Jarvis’ sentiment.  Chairman Graham agreed to work with Mr. Majett to include language that would be amenable to both builders and neighborhood residents.

Chairman Graham and the Committee will review all of the comments submitted by the witnesses.  A final version of this bill will likely not be presented to the full D.C. Council until Fall 2012, at the earliest.

If you have any questions about this pending legislation, please contact our offices.  To see the full video recording of the hearing, please click here.

Reform Hearing Set for July 12, 2012: Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Amendment Act of 2012

The D.C. Council Committee on Human Services is hosting a hearing on July 12, 2012 at 11:00 AM for the Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Amendment Act of 2012 (“Omnibus”).  The bill, introduced by Councilmember Jim Graham (Ward One) and cosponsored by Jack Evans (Ward Two) is set to amend Title 25 of the D.C. Code, which pertains to alcoholic beverages.  The hearing will take place at Room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (photo ID required).

The following are among some of the 43 changes proposed by Omnibus:

  • To create a new Wine Pub permit that allows for the manufacturing and the sale of wine to consumers;
  • To increase the wine alcohol percentage that can be sold by retailer’s class B licensees from 14% to 15%;
  • To allow retailer’s class C and D licensees to purchase from retailer’s class A licensees when District wholesalers are closed;
  • To require notice of placarded license applications to citizen associations registered with ABRA;
  • To require a group of five or more residents or property owners to be within a 400 foot radius to qualify for standing;
  • To require citizens associations to give notice to applicants and offer applicants an opportunity to address their voting body at a duly scheduled meeting;
  • To require citizen associations to give notice to applicants and offer applicants an opportunity to address their voting body at a duly scheduled meeting;
  • To make it a primary tier violation for failure to comply with the statutory food requirements;
  • To require that windows and doors of an establishment remain closed for a noise violation under D.C. Code  § 25 -725 to occur;
  • To make it a secondary tier violation to knowingly allow a patron to exit an on-premises establishment with an open container of alcohol;
  • To establish an affirmative defense to a violation of D.C. Code § 25-783(a) that the person was 21 years of age or older;
  • To allow the Board to fine a licensee $30,000 and suspend a license for 30 consecutive days for a fourth primary tier violation within four years.

The full bill can be found here.  A full recap of the hearing will be provided in a subsequent blog posting.

For more information please contact Rosemarie Salguero or Andre Barlow in our Hospitality Practice Group, at [email protected] (202) 589-1834.


Maryland Legislative Update – New laws to take effect July 1, 2012

These new Maryland state laws take effect today, July 1, 2012.

Senate Bill 994: All beverage alcohol sold to consumers (by retail stores, restaurants, caterers, bars, etc.) in Maryland will be taxed at the new sales tax rate of 9%.

Senate Bill 755 : Allows an individual in a restaurant, club or hotel with a Class B or Class C alcoholic beverages license to consume wine not bought from or provided by the restaurant or facility under certain conditions.

House Bill 690: Repeals the prohibition in Montgomery County on the issuance of Class H beer and light wine licenses in Damascus and submits the law to a referendum of the voters.