Site Visit: Small Business Brings Sizzling Regulatory Concerns to the Table


By Nick Ivory, Regional Legislative and Regulatory Manager

Advocacy visited the restaurant that is widely credited with being the birthplace of the Fajita, the Original Ninfa’s restaurant on Navigation Blvd in Houston. Ninfa’s was established in 1973. “Mama” Ninfa Laurenzo began grilling skirt steak and serving it in tortillas from her family’s struggling tortilla factory. She called the dish “Tacos al Carbon,” which would eventually come to be widely known as Fajitas.

In 2006, Legacy Restaurants acquired the Original Ninfa’s and currently owns and operates four other Ninfa’s locations throughout the state of Texas. We sat down with Legacy CEO Jonathan Horowitz as well as Melissa Stewart, Executive Director of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, as they served up their concerns on federal regulations affecting Ninfa’s and the restaurant industry, in general.

The Department of Labor’s overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act were highlighted as a concern during the course of our conversation. Although it was never became effective due to being struck down by a federal court, DOL plans on releasing a new rule on this issue next year. Under final rules issued by DOL in 2016, most workers making under $47,476 per year would have been eligible for overtime; up from $23,660 which was the figure set in 2004. Horowitz noted that this rule would be difficult to implement because Ninfa’s employs roughly 140 employees, and scheduling these workers to minimize overtime hours would be very complicated for them. It could prevent many employees from working more hours and being promoted.

Advocacy has held many roundtables across the country and submitted a comment letter to DOL on this very issue.

Another topic of discussion was the Department of Health and Human Service rules and requirements in regard to the Affordable Care Act. The recordkeeping and paperwork requirements required by HHS were described as tedious and burdensome, which was a common theme expressed when Advocacy receives feedback from small businesses on ACA compliance. Other recurring complaints that small businesses have with ACA compliance is the difficulty distinguishing between part-time and full-time employees and the tax ramifications for insuring employees.

Horowitz emphasized that government agencies should not allow their rulemaking to work against small business. As Advocacy has heard time and time again, assistance with compliance ahead of time rather than punishment after the fact with burdensome fines is always the most helpful tact when it comes to government oversight. When the conversation reached the U.S. tax code, they did express optimism in the new tax plan passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump last year, noting that the reduction in the rates and write-offs for expenses will be helpful to their growth and prosperity.

Advocacy was in San Antonio and Houston, Texas for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtable and NAFTA Modernization Outreach Meetings on March 19-20.

Can’t get to a roundtable near you? Fill out this form and tell us about your federal regulatory burdens. We will pass this information on to the appropriate agency and use it in the planning of upcoming Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables. 

Nick Ivory is the Regional Legislative and Regulatory Manager. Ivory can be reached at


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