Minimum wage hike welcome, but heavy, for local businesses



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A provincial minimum wage hike that took effect Jan. 1 is good news for restaurant servers, but local employees and business owners recognize the wage hike comes at a difficult time.

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Ontario has increased the general minimum wage from $ 14.35 to $ 15 an hour. The minimum wage for liquor servers has increased more substantially, from $ 12.55 to $ 15 an hour.

This is welcome for waiters, many of whom have seen their incomes reduced by capacity restrictions and fewer tips during the pandemic.

“Anyone who currently works in the service industry has been hit hard during the pandemic,” said Mackenzie Adams, who works part-time as a waiter at Milo’s Greek Grill.

I feel bad for the restaurateurs, they too have been hit hard

“Even though they work take-out or other places during the pandemic, they are now receiving $ 15 an hour. They can’t always trust tips, especially now.

Lisa Cusmanic, waitress at Twisted Apron in Walkerville, places a food order on Tuesday, January 4, 2021.
Lisa Cusmanic, waitress at Twisted Apron in Walkerville, places a food order on Tuesday, January 4, 2021. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

When restaurants are half full and close earlier, waiters end up serving fewer people – “it impacts the tips they tip and the way they feed their families,” Adams said.

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The pay rise represents reliable income separate from unpredictable tips in unpredictable weather, she said, when some waiters return to take-out or covered terraces.

But Adams said she recognizes it is difficult for restaurateurs, especially independent and small restaurants.

“I feel bad for the restaurateurs, they’ve been hit hard too,” Adams said. “Independent restaurants are a lot of overhead that has been taken from the owners, which is unfortunate and now they have to find that money to pay the staff.

It’s a sentiment shared by Katie Robinson, owner of Twisted Apron, who offers “comfort food with a twist.” Robinson said she believed in increasing the minimum wage for liquor servers, but would have liked the $ 2.45 increase to be implemented in small chunks.

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“I agree that the servers should be paid more, but I think they could have done that over time because it’s a big leap,” said Robinson.

“Even if they increased by 50 cents (every six months) it would have made more sense, but the dramatic increase is what is going to hurt many businesses.”

Just days after the wage hike took effect, the Ontario government announced on Monday that the province would return to the second stage of its reopening plan starting Wednesday. It bans indoor meals, among other restrictions, when cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant increase. The move frustrated local businesses.

  1. File photo of bar patrons enjoying beers with bartender Tonya MacWilliams at the Fill Station Sports Bar in Toronto on August 1, 2020.

    Minimum wage hike coming January 1 in Ontario

  2. Dick Price is co-owner of Dawghouse, a restaurant on Wilkins Street.  Price's partner Chuck Thompson told The Free Press that raising the minimum wage for servers is an added expense at a difficult time.

    Restaurants and bars brace for 19% increase in minimum wage

  3. A Second Cup cafe in Toronto's PATH, the world's largest underground mall that passes under major downtown office buildings, is pictured on September 28, 2021.

    LAU: minimum wage hike will hurt – not help – vulnerable workers

This means Robinson made the decision to shut down Twisted Apron and lay off staff shortly after the announcement. It plans to reopen when indoor dining is authorized again.

But for other businesses, Robinson said it would cost more to make take out.

“With this pay rise, having a server and staying open for take out will cost a lot more,” she said.

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