A café owner in Stillwater, Minnesota is charging customers an extra 35 cents on every bill, ostensibly to be able to meet expenses caused by the state’s raising of its minimum wage by 75 cents.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Oasis Café owner Craig Beemer instituted the new charge on Aug. 1, the same day the wage hike took effect.
Beemer maintains that it will cost him $10,000 more per year to pay his six servers $8 per hour rather than their previously state mandated $7.25, but rather than raise prices, he decided to charge customers directly.
He wrote on the Café’s Facebook page that the extra fee is his way of “Thumbing my nose at the law change.”
Craig Orcutt — a manager at the Stillwater Café — said that Beemer’s decision has sparked a backlash online, with angry customers demanded to have their money refunded, and others pledging to boycott the restaurant.
“We’re shocked at what’s going on,” Orcutt told the Tribune. “We’re all appalled at the response for just protecting his employees. We’re just doing what we have to do.”
Blue Plate Co., which operates a chain of restaurants in the area, announced that it will be raising prices and docking servers a portion of any tips that are paid to them on credit or debit cards.
The company claims that it must implement the changes in order to meet costs incurred by the wage increase and by the Affordable Care Act, but a workers’ advocacy group said that the companies are “overreacting” and taking it out on employees and customers.
“We believe that the industry is overreacting,” said Wade Luneberg of Workers UNITE. “Putting [minimum wage] fees on tickets and passing the cost on to consumers directly is strange at best, and creates an ‘us against them’ mentality while ordering dinner.”
Orcutt said his boss is just doing what he has to do.
“[Beemer] wants people to be aware we’re a small business and we’re trying to stay open,” he said, noting that the restaurant did consider firing all of its servers and going to a counter-help setup to preserve its profit margin. “If you raise prices and don’t tell anyone, that seems more backhanded to me.”
[image of restaurant tab and credit card via Shutterstock.com]