On Tuesday, the District of Columbia — where good ideas go to die and bad ideas are kept on life support long after they’ve been declared brain-dead — approved a referendum that turned Initiative 77 into law by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.
Initiative 77 was controversial, not in the least because it would raise the cost of living in what’s already one of the nation’s most expensive cities. The proposal eliminated a minimum-wage exemption for tipped employees, mandating that they would have to be paid $12.50 an hour (and $15 by 2020) for their work in addition to the tips they receive.
That sounds like it might be a boon for those in the service industry — and while everyone from bellhops to valets will be affected, the individuals who will see the biggest impact in their take-home pay will be restaurant servers and bartenders.
However, that impact may not be quite as meliorative as the proponents of Initiative 77 might lead you to believe. Servers and bartenders throughout the city came out against the proposal, which seemed counterintuitive. Why, after all, would they not want to make more money?
Well, as it turns out, they’re not going to be making more money, and for a variety of reasons.
The Bottom Line, according to The Washington Free Beacon, is “the only affordable bar within the White House radius, a place that features beers priced below $5 outside of Happy Hour.”
Its servers “began including a green pamphlet in every check telling patrons to ‘Save Our Tips.’ The pamphlet says restaurants and bars will be forced to reduce staff and shifts, eliminate overtime, and close restaurants if Initiative 77 passes.”
“The people who have never worked in a restaurant, those are the people who will vote for (the hike),” Big Al says. “People who work in restaurants, they know.”
Restaurant-goers also aren’t going to be thrilled. In an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, Spencer Chretien of Citizens Against Government Waste said Initiative 77 would cost eaters much more, and that money won’t be going into the pockets of servers or bartenders.
“D.C. waiters currently enjoy huge earning potential thanks to the tips they receive. Under Initiative 77, their earnings would nosedive,” Chretien writes.
“Restaurants would add a service charge that would increase the cost of meals and drinks, and many customers would either reduce their tips or stop tipping altogether. This extra charge would go to the restaurant, rather than the server. Being a waiter or bartender would increasingly be a minimum wage job instead of a pathway to the middle class. Hours will be reduced, hourly earnings will be stagnant, and restaurants and bars will close.
“This impact will be felt more severely in underserved parts of the nation’s capital. A steakhouse on Capitol Hill that is used for fundraisers by politicians and lobbyists is always going to have business, and a no-limit corporate credit card can always afford to tip handsomely.
“But the summer interns who go to lunch at a nearby cafe might find it makes more financial sense to bring a lunch from home. In areas without a plethora of food options, a few chain restaurants will continue to dominate the scene since they can more easily absorb increased costs; it will be more difficult for local small businesses to compete.”
One reporter from the Free Beacon decided to do a bit of informal digging to find out just what this would mean for D.C. servers, and — if what this source says is true — the effects would be devastating.
I asked the owner of my favorite neighborhood bar his thoughts on Initiative 77 passing and his answer is depressing. pic.twitter.com/xvmgNfWIyH
— Natalie Johnson (@nataliejohnsonn) June 20, 2018
That means — assuming two-week paycheck cycles — that these individuals could lose up to $350 a week. That’s nearly $20,000 a year on the upper-end.
It’s worth noting that the practice of paying servers below minimum wage is common practice across the country and has been for decades, considering the tipping system. In spite of this, servers have managed to carve out a decent living for themselves without the interference of the government. And yet, bureaucrats, union leaders and minimum wage activists think they’re doing these servers a favor — as do liberals.
“Opponents warned that passing the ballot measure would ruin the DC restaurant scene,” Vox wrote in the sub-headline to their story on Initiative 77. “But it’s all (probably) going to be just fine.”
That was the same thing they said about $15 minimum wage in Seattle. That, too, was (probably) going to be just fine. The left’s prognostication on these things — or their idea of what “just fine” entails — seems to be a bit off.
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