AUGUSTA – One restaurant closed for the day to allow its workers to attend Wednesday’s public hearing on the minimum wage.
It’s an indication of how passionate some restaurant owners are about changing the law.
Dozens of restaurant servers descended on the State House. Their mission is to tell legislators they want the tip credit restored. Many believe the new minimum wage created nothing but misunderstanding.
One waiter Jason Buckwalter said “Reduced tips. Right now. Confusion about it. I have guests ask me are you making $12 an hour? How does it work?”
Traditionally, restaurant servers are paid half the minimum wage, with tips making up the difference. That’s a loose definition of the tip credit. However, the new law calls for that to be phased out over the next few years. Many servers don’t want it to disappear.
While a member of the legislative staff told us nearly 99 percent of the people scheduled to testify supported reinstating the tip credit, not all members of the restaurant industry agree with that stance.
“Because this means that now I have a more consistent base wage to plan my life around.” said waitress Julia Legler.
There are restaurant owners who say the new law is negatively impacting their wait staff.
Pepino’s Restaurant Owner Susan Stephanson stated “What I hear in my restaurant is customers saying, oh, she’s making $12 an hour, you don’t have to tip her. The confusion, what people still don’t understand about this is they’re not making $12 an hour, they’re making $5 an hour.”
Some owners contend the lack of tipping may be a geographical issue.
“People are continuing to be supportive of their wait staff. They continue to recognize outstanding service through the custom of tips.” said Kathryn Harnish, owner of The Vault.
Restaurant owners who favor reinstating the tip credit say right now it’s bad business. Those who say leave it alone, let the minimum wage stand say business is good.