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Panera Cares Limits Customer Hand-Outs, Beefs Up Security

Restaurant managers are asking individuals abusing the system to only come in once a week, and additional cameras have been added to the store.

After complaints from neighbors who had safety concerns, Panera Cares says it’s limiting the number of times “food insecure” individuals can come to the store for a cheap meal.

Representatives for the business at 616 W. Diversey Pkwy attended Monday’s South East Lake View Neighbors meeting to update residents about the things they’re doing to address safety concerns. Jimmy Hopper, one of the store’s managers, said they’ve been limiting people who they think are abusing the system.

“People who were coming in every day, we are asking they limit themselves to one a week,” Hoppers said. “…Two reasons we kind of backed off from that. If we had people coming in that aren’t abusing the system, I’m not going to have them come in and sign their names.

“It’s the habitual offenders, and those are the people we asked to limit themselves to once a week,” Hoppers continued. “We didn’t want those people coming and just loitering around the community.”

This comes after representatives at last month’s SELVN meeting said needy people could come in for a discounted meal once a day. However, although the store is limiting repeat customers, Hoppers said they can still stop by once a day to pick up bread, bagels and pastries.

“We didn’t want those people coming and just loitering around the community.”

Combined with a slew of new security cameras and a detailed police study showing “there’s nothing really going on there,” Panera Cares representatives say they’re doing all they can to address neighborhood safety concerns.

And per the group’s request from last month’s meeting, Hoppers returned with more detailed tax information. In October, Panera Bread Area Director Jeff Harman said it was the first time Panera has been confronted with these tax loophole rumors.

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“Tax questions have not come up in other locations,” Harman said. “…An email I received earlier was the first instance that I was confronted about tax. I can assure you there is no elaborate plan (to exploit tax loopholes). Panera Cares is a non-profit foundation. But that’s about all the information I have about tax at this time.”

Hoppers confirmed Harman’s statement Monday night, saying real estate taxes are built into Panera Cares’ lease. The only tax they claim to be altered is sales tax. Because the store is now considered a non-profit, they don’t charge customers sales tax. 

Panera officials say there are 9,000 peope in the area who are food insecure, meaning they don't know where their next meal is coming from. Just 10 percent of those are homeless, their data reports. 

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Just some gal November 16, 2012 at 01:02 AM
What a bunch of neighborhood snobs. Take a walk in the shoes of those in need and see how it feels! Yes, there are those who abuse the system, but the system of snobbery in this country harms those who truly are in need. I'm sure if the shoe were on the other foot, these neighborhood snobs would be more compassionate toward their fellow human beings.
Keira Evelyn Moir January 06, 2013 at 04:04 PM
Walking away is what has entrenched poverty so deeply into the American landscape as it is.We have believed that only the immoral and the lazy have to worry about financial security.Too often we will throw money at a cause but dread to come face to face with people to whom we are offering our so-called support. Whenever we skulk away instead of joining together as neighbors, we are worsening the very conditions we are afraid of. Other than volcanoes erupting, no more land is being created. We can perpetuate the isolation of and disdain for people navigating a lower standard of living until we run out of places to hide, or we can offer solutions that count us all as people, flawed and inherently capable of great works.

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