News & Politics

NYC's New Minimum Wage Law Forcing Restaurant Owners to Cut Workers' Hours

Protestors pause near a McDonald's restaurant in Times Square during a rally and march in New York, as participants, fast food workers and union members call for a $15 minimum wage. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

Well, well, well. In a case of “we told you so,” liberals who work in the restaurant industry are finding that 2019 has brought them fewer hours at work. Sure, they now get that beloved $15 an hour (why just $15 an hour? Why not $20 or $25 or even $100 an hour?), but that new minimum wage law they love so much is forcing restaurant owners in New York City to cut hours as well as cut staff and raise menu prices. If only someone had warned them this would happen.

My snark aside (and out of my system), I don’t wish for people to lose hours or their job. But this consequence of raising the minimum wage was foreseen. I’ve worked in the restaurant industry and I have friends who own restaurants. Profit margins are razor-thin, and restaurant owners are advised to be prepared to not pay themselves for at least the first two years. My friends who own restaurants spent the first few years working open to close every day because they couldn’t afford to adequately staff their restaurants. If they had been forced to pay a $15 minimum wage, I’m assuming that they would’ve been forced to close. I don’t know of any restaurants in NYC that have been forced to close because of the city’s new minimum wage law, and I hope none do, but not even a month into the law’s life and it’s already having an adverse effect on NYC restaurants.

Yesterday, CBS News published a report on those adverse effects. The article notes that the $15-an-hour minimum wage is part three of an incremental increase in the minimum wage that began on December 31, 2016. Speaking to a local restaurateur, CBS uncovers the harm the new law is causing:

Jon Bloostein operates six New York City restaurants that employ between 50 and 110 people each. The owner of Heartland Brewery and Houston Hall, Bloostein said the effect of the higher minimum wage on payroll across locations represents “an immense cost” to his business.

“We lost control of our largest controllable expense,” he told CBS MoneyWatch. “So in order to live with that and stay in business, we’re cutting hours.”

Bloostein said he has scaled back on employee hours and no longer uses hosts and hostesses during lunch on light traffic days. Customers instead are greeted with a sign that reads, “Kindly select a table.” He also staggers employees’ start times. “These fewer hours add up to a lot of money in restaurants,” he said.

While reading the article, Bloostein’s confession that “in order to live with that and stay in business, we’re cutting hours,” stood out to me.

This shouldn’t be difficult, but liberals, for some reason, refuse to see that 2+2=4. In an industry that has razor-thin profit margins, forcing artificial wage increases causes restaurant owners to make changes in order to “stay in business.” And those changes are not going to help the workers that the minimum wage laws are purportedly intended to help.

CBS’s article goes on to talk about how restaurant owners are raising menu prices and mentions the decreased quality of service. The odd thing is that if you read the article, its tone is one of accusation directed at the restaurant owners who would dare sacrifice workers’ hours and the customers’ dining experience because of the minimum wage law. As if they have a choice. The article ends with a guilt-inducing charge for restaurant owners to cut costs elsewhere and to leave workers’ hours alone. But, as restaurateur Susannah Koteen told CBS, “If you make it impossible for people to operate, they have to close or take drastic measures or really cut people back. At some point people aren’t going to be opening because you have to look at the bottom line.”

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that the current experiences of those working in NYC’s restaurants will not deter liberals from attempting to force companies to pay workers more than their businesses can handle. It’s as if liberals would prefer for everyone to suffer.