Gotta hand it to my former KIRO radio colleague Dori Monson—he’s never so sure of himself as when he’s absolutely wrong:
Seattle restaurants are closing because of the coming of $15 an hour. … Seattle Magazine had a story about this. Queen Anne’s Grub restaurant closed Feb. 14. Pioneer Square’s Little Uncle shut down Feb. 25. The Boat Street Cafe will close May 30.
The restaurant owners said certainly there are a lot of reasons, but they said that $15 an hour is a major factor in all of this.
Uh-huh. Except, if Dori had actually read the Seattle Magazine piece, he’d know that not a single one of these owners mentioned the minimum wage as a contributing factor toward their restaurant’s closure. Grub’s owner sold out to pursue “future opportunities in this wonderful industry;” a new restaurant will open in its place. Boat Street Cafe’s owner is closing to focus on her three other restaurants and the two new ones she’s opening, while the neighboring Boat Street Kitchen expands into the cafe’s space. And Little Uncle’s owners say they closed because their “Pioneer Square location ultimately does not fit into the goals of our professional life and personal life,”—and are planning to reopen in a new location.
“We did not close our Pioneer Square location due to the new minimum wage,” Little Uncle’s Poncharee Kounpungchart told PubliCola.
“That’s weird, ha. No, that’s not why I’m closing Boat Street,” owner Renee Erickson told the Seattle Times when asked if her closure had anything to do with the minimum wage. (Yay, Bethany!)
So why isn’t Seattle’s $15 minimum wage a factor? It could be because it hasn’t happened yet! Also, the first step of the phase-in will have very little impact on these restaurants’ bottom line.
Starting April 1, small businesses (and these are all small businesses) will be required to pay tipped workers a minimum wage of $10 an hour. But Washington State’s minimum wage is already $9.47 an hour, so that’s not much of a raise. The ordinance requires a “minimum compensation” of $11 an hour—wage plus tips plus benefits—but most back of house staff at full service restaurants in Seattle already earn more than that. Maybe a few dishwashers will get a small raise. This isn’t restaurant armageddon.
In fact, restaurants close all the time—about 17 percent a year in Washington State, according to the article Dori cited, but obviously didn’t bother to read. And there is no evidence that Seattle restaurants are closing any faster than they normally do.
In any case, correlation doesn’t equal causation. So why Dori, who denies climate science, would find a handful of restaurant closures to be irrefutable proof of the “real world consequences” of a higher minimum wage, seems strange. Unless, of course, Dori couldn’t actually give a shit about the truth.