Austin Restaurant Blames Obamacare For Margarita Prices

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This story starts, as many do, with a tweet. A customer was at the Salty Sow and noticed a troubling item on the drink menu: the “Obama Care Margarita.”

One tweet led to another, and soon, Eater Austin reported, Austinites were vowing to boycott the establishment and all of their tasty drinks.

The original tweet garnered over thirty responses, at least one of which expressed frustration with all of the fuss over a joke:

But clearly, the Salty Sow wasn’t going to take any chances with the previously mentioned humorless clientelle. They issued an apology (and took to Twitter, to cover all of their bases) after removing the drink from their menu. The Salty Sow said:

On last night’s menu, we made a tongue-in-cheek reference to a hot button topic. We apologized to those who were offended and have removed it from the menu.

But really y’all, why all the fuss? It isn’t like billion dollar businesses have been using the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare as an excuse to reduce their employees’ hours, while they continue to rake in ridiculous profit margins, right?

Wrong. Last year, the CEO of Whole Foods called Obamacare fascist and went on to say that the law – and not the tendency of companies to value profit over paying their employees fairly – would cause companies to reduce their employees’ hours in order to avoid spending money providing healthcare.

John Schnatter, the real Papa John of Papa John’s, caused controversy in 2012 when he said that the additional costs through Obamacare – which, to be clear, are the costs of providing quality health insurance to employees– would cause the cost of pizzas to rise and would lead some franchises to cut hours to ensure that their employees wouldn’t make the cut to qualify for benefits. It was especially galling in light of then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney commenting on the quality of Schnatter’s multi-billion dollar home. When pressed about this juxtaposition, Schnatter replied:

When you have built a $3 billion company out of a broom closet, I think you are entitled to a nice house.

In other words – pull yourself up by your bootstraps and then you’ll get healthcare. Until then – suck it up.

By September of 2013, over 300 companies had reportedly claimed that they would be cutting hours or laying off workers to avoid the increased costs associated with Obamacare.

To their credit, it is highly likely that the folks at the Salty Sow were trying to poke fun at these employers and their callous valuation of profit margins over the well being of their employees, but it also isn’t surprising that customers simply didn’t find the humor in the Obama Care Margarita.

Perhaps that’s because, in a town like Austin, there are a lot of people working in the food service industry. More often than not, they are paid minuscule hourly wages on the assumption that their customers will tip and can do math, and their access to benefits through full time scheduling lies completely in the hands of managers who are carefully watching the bottom line.

Texas is one of the states with the highest concentration of food service industry employees in the country. Twenty-six out of every thousand people in Austin metropolitan statistical area work in food service or preparation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the average annual income of those workers is $19,260.

In light of the willingness of employers across the country to throw their workers under the bus to save their profit margins and make a political statement, and considering just how many people in Texas and Austin rely on this insecure sector to make ends meet, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that restaurant-goers were disappointed in the joke. Maybe that’s because blaming workers’ access to healthcare for a higher price on the consumer’s end just isn’t funny.


About Author

Genevieve Cato

Genevieve Cato is a feminist activist and a native Texan. While not writing for the Burnt Orange Report, she can be found working for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, serving as a community member of the Communications Committee for the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, and drinking copious amounts of pretentious local craft beers.


  1. I would be really interested to know if Salty Sow provided health care for its servers. Very few restaurants in Austin do. If they do, that is to be commended. If they don’t, that just makes the joke in poorer taste.

  2. Cross posted from FB (they keep deleting it).

    “The internet in permanent, and so is your Tea Party-esque menu joke. I used to eat and recommend your restaurant, but not anymore. In a very competitive restaurant industry you just knocked yourself back. Nobody wants to live in a society swarming with sick folks who cannot afford health care, and there’s no joke to that. Good luck recovering from your little stunt. PS: Grow up.”

  3. Hmm… I suppose it’s better for people to believe Obamacare is free and doesn’t cost average people anything. Hiding costs is the way to go. Ignorance is bliss… and apparently good for business.

    • I highly doubt that this restaurant has over 50 full-time employees and if they don’t, then Obamacare is costing them NOTHING.

    • You must be the dumbest person on the planet. Obamacare lowers costs for everyone. What kind of a sick pathetic deranged moron are you?

  4. So many of the artists and musicians that help to make Austin the great city that it is work in food service roles to supplement their incomes. That is probably a contributing factor as well as the robust food culture that we have here. Making jokes about providing appropriate wages or benefits to any working group is bad enough but seems particularly offensive to many Austinites, especially those who not only serve you your supper but have to sing for their own supper.

  5. We already get obama care taxed as our health premiums go up. Now that restaurant wants to tax us again? That’s double taxation!

  6. Well I mean… the more you drink, the worse your health gets. Therefore the more Obamacare dollars you will have to use and take from “the pool” to fix your health down the road. So in theory, it makes sense. You are in theory paying your fare.

    • ACETX, I guess you’re also sick of consumers deciding which establishments deserve their patronage. How dare they!

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