Joe’s Steakhouse at Forum Shops Institutes Optional COVID-19 Crisis Fee

One of our favorite Las Vegas restaurants, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab at the Forum Shops, has risked the ire of customers with a new “COVID-19 offset fee” in the amount of four percent on all checks.

The reasoning for the fee is provided on the company’s Web site.

Joe's COVID fee

Don’t bury the lede, Joe’s. The fee is optional!

While we’d typically lose our mind over a fee like this, we’re reeling in the WTF this time. Hear us out.

We’ll say up front we think this fee is a bad look for Joe’s and its parent company, Lettuce Entertain You.

But everyone can agree restaurants are going through a particularly difficult time right now.

Yeah, understatement of the year.

In Las Vegas, most have had zero revenue in more than two months during the shutdown.

Joe's Seafood Las Vegas

Joe’s will change your life. You can’t put a price on that.

Even as restaurants have opened their doors again, they have been faced with a daunting 50% occupancy limitation. Even the most financially successful restaurants (Joe’s is one of those) are struggling with the unprecedented financial challenge that limitation (in addition to new costs related to safety protocols and equipment) presents.

To the credit of Joe’s, they’re transparent about the fee. It’s not only on the restaurant’s Web site, it’s on the menu and printed on the checks.

Joe's COVID receipt

Optional is cool. Keep an eye out for restaurants where it’s mandatory.

The biggest saving grace is the restaurant makes it very clear customers can simply ask to have the fee removed.

So, it’s completely optional.

We initially figured we’d ask to have the fee removed, but as we thought about it further, we’re pretty sure we’re going to pay it.

Why? We love Joe’s. We love that Joe’s employees are finally back to work. We want to place to thrive, and we don’t mind helping Joe’s through a rough patch.

Yes, Joe’s could just add 4% to their prices, but that could end up being permanent. This “offset” fee is very much temporary, just the way we prefer our fees.

As mentioned, Joe’s is one of the best restaurants in Las Vegas, and it’s hard to get too mad when you love something so much. They get a pass from us this time.

If you refuse to pay fees out of principal, good for you. As to have the 4% removed from your tab and tip the server 24%. You can afford it. You’re eating at Joe’s!

Thanks to Twitter followers @Austin5Fe and @trilldauterive for alerting us to this story.

Update (6/5/20): Mon Ami Gabi at Paris has also instituted this optional charge. Mon Ami Gabi has the same owner as Joe’s, Lettuce Entertain You. Another Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, El Segundo Sol at Fashion Show mall, has also started the charge.

Mon Ami Gabi: So good, it’s hard to hate.

Update (6/12/20): Joe’s and Mon Ami Gabi have dropped their surcharge. You’re welcome.

39 thoughts on “Joe’s Steakhouse at Forum Shops Institutes Optional COVID-19 Crisis Fee

  1. Jim Flynn

    I would pay it along with a 25% tip to the server. Really tough times for the restaurant biz and social distancing won’t help.

  2. Ronald M.

    Seems like this is going to be a common thing, adding a COVID fee. Cool that they make it optional.

    Now that the flu season has ended and restaurants are making up for lost revenue, I expect the cost to dine out to be higher everywhere, be it increased prices or an add-on fee.

  3. B Jones

    It’s not much $8 on a $200 check but for that type of restaurant it’s pretty pathetic IMO and a lot of people will take it out of the gratuity. They serve those little bottles of coke for $4 each… you’d think that would help cover the COVID costs.

  4. MCD

    Their parent company made ~ $150 MILLION in revenue last year. JFC. They can take that 4% and shove it.

    Now, as soon as they take that off, I’m more than happy to put 25% on there for the servers. They are the ones that have had legitimate hard times the last 90 days. Absolutely no problem supporting those folks.


    This one is a little different from the “concession and franchise fee” (CNF) at Paris Beer Park and some other places, reported in Vital Vegas in 2016 [link below]. There you get nothing in return, unless you rationalize that they’re charging you for the ambience of the place; it’s hidden in the fine print on the menu; and once you sit down, you’re stuck with it. Here, they really do have additional expenses due to circumstances beyond their control; they announce it clearly, although not exactly up front; and you can opt out of it.
    OTOH, it does put the customer in an awkward position. Basically, you have three options:
    1. Pay the fee;
    2. Opt out of it, look like a piker, and take the hit to your self-image; or
    3. Don’t go–or, if you didn’t know about it before, don’t go back.
    And if this type of charge proliferates like resort fees until practically everyone is doing it, there’s a fourth option:
    4. Don’t go back to Las Vegas.

    1. alex

      If you’re so concerned about how some stranger you’re never going to see again feels about you after requesting an optional fee to be removed, you really need to work on your self esteem.


        Actually, I already did. Years ago when I was young and knew everything, I suffered from excessive self-esteem like some other posters on this site. In middle age, I’ve become much more humble. I’m sometimes tempted to be proud of that–but nowadays, my humility is by far the finest of my many fine qualities, and I wouldn’t want to blow it.

        1. sillywood

          I got a real kick out of Alex’s response to your original comment. He obviously took offense to option #2 that contained the term “piker” in its assessment.

          Hey, Alex, if the shoe fits…

          1. alex

            You read something that wasn’t there.

            That’s fine. My self-worth isn’t tied to whether or not some stranger I’ll never meet thinks about something I wrote online.

  6. Johnny Canuck

    Temporary? I’m still wondering about my temporary fuel surcharges on my courier bills that were placed when oil went through the roof. I guess they bought some long term futures contracts…..

  7. Frank Caltagirone

    I understand the need and concern about this fee as we are now seeing more small business adding this which I feel is not fair to us customers.

  8. Boulder Steve

    Got a feeling this fee will be around a lot longer than the Virus. Most people will pay it unfortunately

  9. Mike Alexakis

    When the gentlemen’s clubs re-open I bet many will demand a written receipt after the lap dance, if only to find out what they call their hidden fees, I’m pretty sure the word crabs will not appear, and it will be signed by a man named Peter…

  10. Steve Whitener

    If they told the truth and said it was because their governor shut their business down, I’d pay it. If they blame the flu. I won’t pay.

    1. Father Time

      The governor shut down their businesses because of the flu, and are operating with state-directed safeguards because of the flu.

      Aren’t the governor and the flu the same thing?

      And isn’t flu season over?

      1. Steve Whitener

        Not really. The virus doesn’t make public policy decisions. Some states and countries didn’t shut down their economies (e.g. North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas, Iceland, Sweden, Belarus, etc.). They didn’t get sucked into Coronamania. Many states destroyed their economies and now they are suffering for making one of the biggest blunders in history. The death rate for the virus is .0003 and dropping.

    2. worry not

      According to Trump’s presser today, millions of lives were saved. (He didn’t say how.) And now we’re in the midst of the greatest economic comeback in American history. Again, so says Trump. He left me with the impression that he deserves a medal. No governors were mentioned.

        1. worry not

          That’s a rather skimpy thought you decided to share with us today, Mr. Grumpy. Would you care to expound on that a little? The season ticket-holders are feeling kinda ripped off.

        2. Mike Alexakis

          Hey “No Tears”, this tear gas semantic gaslighting act you folks are throwing out would work much better if the Park Police and Secret Service in Washington DC bothered to pick up the canisters they shot at the protesters, they left them in the street and some local reporters picked them up. They contained OC gas pellets, and SPEDE-HEAT CS, which is tear gas, we all saw it with our own eyes. You are free to claim the photo-op with the upside down Bible was symbolic, I agree it was, but tear gas was indeed used on peaceful protesters, not “pepper spray”, which would have been bad as well…

          1. No tears

            The pellets may have been picked up from the ground, where they were laying next to the the stones, bricks, and cement filled water bottles that were hurled at the peacekeepers. Maybe they were lying beside the matches used to start the fires. Of course, most will say the fires probably started from global warming.

      1. Had to ask

        What’s a better option? Biden…or any other Democrats. All you’ll get is more government, higher taxes, and less liberty. Did I mention worse run states and cities. Good luck with that. I’ll vote most American!!

        1. Mike Alexakis

          Nobody cares who you vote for, voting is private, confidential… But if the issue is “liberty”, real liberty is not having to lie to cover for people, or pretend that words dont matter… For one example out of tens of thousands, how about this week they denied they used tear gas on peaceful protesters near the White House, I saw the video, I have “liberty”, I dont have to lie, obviously they used tear gas, its on film…

        2. John B

          Yeah because beating peaceful protesters, lying and constant tweeting about himself is so “American.” I guess the biggest deficit ever is not “big government” either. It’s all a fraud. Bunker’s supporters never allow any criticism, it’s like they are secretly in love with the guy.

        3. No tears

          Pepper Spray and tear gas….. not the same thing.
          Was it the 1st time, 2nd time or 3rd time they were asked nicely to move back or they would be forced, so that the President could pay tribute to a historic place of worship that was burned by the “peaceful” protesters.

  11. JP

    I’m sorry but no. I absolutely refuse to pay illegitimate fees like this one. They don’t get a kudos just because they are being somewhat transparent. What they should ask is if you would like to add 1-4% of your bill to make up for Covid-19 shut down and reduced operating capacity. I have been tipping every place that I go higher than I did pre-coronavirus cause I know this really hurt the service industry but I refuse to pay fees like this. I have walked out of Vegas restaurants before that have that criminal concession fee and would do the same to this place.

  12. Grouchy Ahole

    You know what grinds my gears Vegas? This crap. If you want to cover your costs in any business, just up your prices and let me decide if it’s worth paying you for the service. Obviously “resort fees” and parking are in the same category.

    I’ll pay it, but it’ll be deducted from the 15% tip.

    1. worry not

      What I read into your comment is that you favor cost transparency, which falls under the category of consumer protections. Consumer protections have gone by the wayside, and it will continue getting worse as the laws continue to deteriorate. Do yourself a favor and vote for the party that favors the consumer over conmen posing as business leaders.

  13. JP

    As I predicted…here come the additional fees. The hotels are just waiting for the tourism influx to ramp up a bit, then they’ll start to nickle and dime every “experience” and “amenity.”

  14. Brandon Outfall

    Where do you all get “optional?” It’s not optional. It’s right there on the check. You have the option to make a minor scene and come across as being petty and uncaring by flagging down the person whom you have already been shamed into tipping 20 percent for the two and half minutes of grudging attention you got, and requesting that the fee be removed from your tab; that’s what’s “optional.”

  15. Brandon Outfall

    If you don’t understand that that’s exactly the position the business wants to put its customers in by calling it a COVID surcharge rather than a profit-enhancement fee, you really need to work on your critical thinking skills.

  16. 4% is nothing

    I’d be more worried about the heart attack that eating a stick and a half of butter would cause. Plus, no way on earth could I ever justify paying that high of a dinner tab. I’m not that important.


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