A small cafe in Stillwater has thrown itself into the big battle over Minnesota’s minimum wage increases, inundating the cafe with dozens of phone calls and online comments this week after it tacked on a 35-cent fee to meal tabs.I thought Minnesota State Senator Dave Thompson summed it up best via Twitter.
Oasis Cafe owner Craig Beemer said the fee is needed to offset the 75-cent wage hike that took effect Aug. 1, the first time Minnesota’s minimum wage has increased in a decade. Even with only half a dozen servers, Beemer says it will cost him $10,000 more a year to pay servers $8 an hour instead of the federal rate of $7.25 an hour. Instead of adding it on to food prices, he added the “minimum wage fee” — the only restaurant known to do so in Minnesota so far.
It’s set off a firestorm of debate on Facebook and in the east metro community, with one customer calling the cafe Wednesday to demand a refund and others taking to Facebook to encourage people to boycott the roadside cafe.
So folks are angry to see "minimum wage fee" on restaurant receipt? Do they think the cost would disappear if it wasn't itemized? #Econ101
— Dave Thompson (@ThompsonSenate) August 7, 2014
Making his first public statement on the proverbial firestorm this afternoon, Beemer responded via the restaurant's Facebook page.
Our decision to offset the recent increase in minimum wage was what we believed to be the most honest and transparent way to communicate a significant increase in our operating cost. Rather than raise menu prices, we decided to charge a flat fee per guest check.Mr. Beemer, unless there's limousine parking and your waiters are donning tuxedos, I highly doubt
While our family is conservative in our views, it was never our intent to make some grand political statement about the minimum wage debate. My comment about thumbing my nose at the law is being quoted out of context.
With regards to how much we pay our employees, our servers average more than $20 per hour when you consider the tips they receive. Our dishwashers make $10 to $11 and our cooks make $12 to $16 per hour. Anyone familiar with restaurant wages in our market knows we’re paying our staff a more than competitive wage.
To those who have supported our restaurant with your business and positive comments...thank you...your support is appreciated more than you’ll ever know.
To those customers who we’ve offended with our minimum wage fee, please know it was not our intent to be offensive and that we hope you’ll find a way to forgive us.
To those of you who are describing me and my wife as a corporate monster and his trophy wife...you’re only half right... yes, my wife is amazing.
To those of you who are causing my phone to beep every couple seconds...Really? How is our country ever going to solve the problems for which we are so divided with responses that can only be described as hateful?
To our team of employees...thank you for your continued hard work and unwavering support. You’re truly an amazing group of people!
To Governor Dayton, rather than continue with your negative comments about our business, we’d like to invite you for lunch to meet our amazing staff and discuss this polarizing issue in person. I suspect you’ll find we have much more in common than you might think.
But I digress.
Look, now that this practice of adding a "minimum wage fee" is public knowledge, the general public can decide for themselves whether or not to patronize Oasis in the future. Mr. Beemer likely prepared himself for the fact that his business may suffer because of this supplemental fee. Again, as a business owner, that's his prerogative. But given the irrational response by some people (many of whom don't even live in Minnesota and thus have never visited Oasis Cafe), the pro-freedom, pro-capitalist crowd is stepping up big time. Since this story received nationwide attention, Oasis Cafe's business has been up significantly this past week.
God Bless free enterprise!