As sibling Liberty ponders going co-op, Good Citizen focuses on coffee, not cocktails

IMG_20160622_184226179_HDR
The plans for Good Citizen, Andrew Friedman’s second Capitol Hill hangout that eased into operation more than a year ago only to quietly go dormant again, have changed. Meanwhile, Liberty, Friedman’s plucky 15th Ave E bar that made its reputation in growing Seattle’s craft cocktail scene out of equal parts integrity and bitters, is up for sale — but likely only available to a very special group of buyers: the people who work there.

After opening as an event space more than a year ago, Good Citizen on E Olive Way is, for now, anyhow, moving forward as a cafe — craft cocktail-free.

Friedman tells CHS Good Citizen re-opened “just for fun” starting Tuesday, June 21. Right now, the store only has Stumptown coffee, but Friedman says pastries, and coffee from other roasters will soon be available. You can stop by now though be prepared for a flexible schedule as Friedman’s crew sorts things out. Continue reading

Seattle looks at fee on businesses to fund minimum wage and labor law enforcement

The office responsible for enforcing Seattle’s expanding labor laws needs $6 million in 2017 to cover its operations. On Wednesday, Seattle City Council members will be considering a new fee on businesses to fund it.

Under a proposal by City Council member Lisa Herbold, the city would levy a new annual fee on businesses specifically for funding the Office of Labor Standards — currently paid for through the city’s general fund. City Council’s District 3 rep Kshama Sawant and others have repeatedly called for OLS to receive more funding to better enforce and educate the public on Seattle’s minimum wage law. Continue reading

Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop called out for paying budtenders below minimum wage

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

The owner of Seattle’s most prolific marijuana shop is apologizing after paying several of his employees below Seattle’s minimum wage. Around 10 budtenders at Uncle Ike’s had been getting paid $10 an hour, 50 cents below the city’s minimum wage as of January, according to owner Ian Eisenberg. Eisenberg said it was a simple misunderstanding, but one employee says it took her multiple attempts to rectify the situation.

The issue at the 23rd and Union pot shop was first reported on by The Stranger, which revealed a series of text messages budtender Nicole Stotts had with a payroll manager. The manager, contracted by Uncle Ikes, erroneously told the the employee that her tips counted towards her wage.

Seattle does not have a so-called tip credit. The 2015 minimum wage law phases in a $15 minimum wage over several years with different timelines depending on the size of a business and the benefits it offers. Uncle Ike’s is required to pay its employees at least $10.50 an hour as it pays for medical benefits. Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s tipless bars and restaurants settle in — more to come?

By Nick Twietmeyer, UW News Lab / Special to CHS

Slowly but surely, the concept of a tipless restaurant is gaining a foothold on Capitol Hill. It has been a year since Lionhead and the Renee Erickson trio of Bateau, Bar Mesuline, and General Porpoise ditched tips in favor of a service charge and flat hourly wages for their staff.

Several of Seattle’s high profile restauranteurs have followed suit while others on Capitol Hill say they are exploring the model. Some have cited Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law and concerns over a decrease in tipping as their rationale for the move. Capitol Hill owners who spoke with CHS said they were primarily motivated by offering more stability for their staff.

At the Sea Creatures trio at 10th and Union, owners said ditching tips was relatively seamless and popular among servers.

“Going tipless has actually helped us to attract the types of people we like to work with, namely professional servers and cooks,” said Jeremy Price, co-owner and operations manager of the Erickson parent company.

As part of the tip phase out, Price promised employees that overall take-home pay would not decrease. “Front of house staff is making the same as they were before. The back of house has seen an average 15 percent pay increase,” he said.

Optimism Brewing has taken a similar approach, where tip and tax are all rolled into the price of a beer. “We simply advertise a price for our product and the customers pay that price; the way it is at every other business,” said Optimism owner Gay Gilmore. Continue reading

Old timer Pagliacci adds ‘slice bar’ as great pizza rush of 2016 stretches to North Capitol Hill

orig_locations_2_5_miller_exterior

(Image: Pagliacci)

Thanks to a small 2015 blip in the Capitol Hill pizza economy, the relatively high profit margin, relatively easy to produce culinary creation has become a $15 minimum wage talking point. We’re not sure where this fits into the conversation other than, yup, pizza remains hot on Capitol Hill.

One of the key early outposts in Seattle pizza giant Pagliacci’s ascendancy as king of the city’s delivery pack has undergone an overhaul and is celebrating Saturday, May 14th with free slices. Here’s what’s up at Capitol Hill’s 2400 10th Ave. E Pagliacci location, the Miller store:

Pagliacci Pizza just opened a new slice bar at their Miller store and to celebrate the location will give away slices on Saturday, May 14th, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is a limit of two slices per person. In addition to adding a slice bar and an expanded dining room the store now serves beer and wine. Doors open daily at 11 a.m.

The 10th and E Miller location had been a delivery-only kitchen since opening in 1992. According to Pagliacci, the company planned the location as its first deliver-only site but delays ended up costing it its place in Pagliacci history. “The space seemed so big that we agreed to rent out the front to a former employee who wanted to open a cafe,” the store’s information page reads. “The former employee got cold feet (about the cafe) and over time, we found we definitely needed the space to meet the high volume of orders in Capitol Hill.” Pagliacci’s first call center was operated at the location before Pagliacci Support Central was consolidated at the company’s E Pike headquarters. CHS wrote here in 2013 about Pagliacci’s 30 years on Broadway and the company’s E Pike mission control center. Pagliacci says it plans to open its 26th location around Seattle by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, CHS has reported about other Hill pizza veterans joining the wave of young bucks bringing more pizza than ever before to Capitol Hill’s food and drink offerings. With its upgrades, Pagliacci now pulls North Capitol Hill into the 2016 pizza wars. Your move, Padrino’s.

 

What some Capitol Hill businesses are saying about the Seattle minimum wage study

Researchers from the University of Washington presented before a full City Council their early analysis of the impact of Seattle’s gradual march to a universal $15 minimum wage. The report — the first in a series of several commissioned by the council in tandem with their passing of the original wage hike ordinance — showed that, aside from a roughly 7% price increase in Seattle’s restaurant industry, there hasn’t been runaway cross-industry price inflation like some critics predicted. So, what do Capitol Hill’s bar, restaurant, and retail business owners have to say about the findings?

The report surveyed 567 Seattle businesses (the majority of whom have less than 500 employees, the city’s definition of ‘small business’) and 55 employees between the months of January 2015 and May 2015. During that period, the ordinance raised hourly wages to eleven dollars for non-tipped workers and ten for those receiving tips or medical benefits. And while the report didn’t find substantial price inflation (a look at grocery store, gasoline, and retail prices showed no noticeable increase), in addition to the recorded uptick in restaurant prices, a majority of employers surveyed said that they have or plan to raise their prices in order to accommodate the new labor costs.

“The bottom line is if there’s any place we can find price impacts, it is in restaurant sector,” research Jake Vigdor from the University of Washington Evans School of Governance and Public Policy told the council.

Capitol Hill business owners say these findings aren’t shocking. “We all knew that prices would go up and we’re seeing that as a result,” said Pike/Pine nightlife entrepreneur David Meinert. “I don’t think anyone should be surprised at that.”

Rich Fox, co-owner of Poquitos restaurant on Pike and the Rhein Haus on 12th, agrees. “What I see [in the report] is pretty consistent with what we’re dealing with at this point,” he said. “We’ve raised prices to account for the increase in labor.”

Both Fox and Meinert say that they haven’t raised prices universally (like bumping everything up 2% or what have you), but have strategically looked at what has been selling and where they think they can push consumer spending limits. “You pick your battles, where there is acceptable room to move and what you’ve sold in the past,” said Fox. Continue reading

Another chain restaurant set to be replaced on Broadway

Genki Sushi 080314 (1)

GS_LOGOThe Broadway Building, a project from a Capitol Hill-based developer across from Seattle Central at the corner of Broadway and Pine, has become an interesting place to watch some of the smaller shifts in the neighborhood’s food and drink economy as the city’s move to a $15 minimum wage plays out.

No word, yet, from the big chain’s corporate bosses on their decision to close the restaurant, but Broadway’s only conveyor belt sushi joint has announced it will close later this month. Genki Sushi, which opened in the Broadway Building five years ago, will close next week.

In its place, CHS has been told a local restaurant is already set to put the kaiten back in motion in the Hunters Capital-owned building.

While management of the Hawaii-based Genki chain with restaurants in the islands, Washington, and California hasn’t yet commented on the closure, the change will be the third transition from a chain or franchise in the building. In November, Ian’s Pizza on the Hill replaced a pizza joint whose owner blamed the city’s treatment of franchises as large chain restaurants for her decision to bail on Broadway.

Seattle’s minimum wage law kicked into high gear in 2016. Starting in January, minimum wage workers at companies with more than 500 employees got a an 18% bump in pay from $11 to $13 an hour. Small business employees were bumped up to a $12 guaranteed minimum, an increase of $1, and those who are tipped now get a $.50 base-pay raise bringing their minimum hourly wage to $10.50.

News of the Genki closure was broadcast by another of the Broadway Building’s new era of tenants. Local player Refresh Frozen Desserts replaced departed fro yo chain Yogurtland in September.

 

Like frozen yogurt and pizza, the departure of the sushi chain now opens a space for an independent — or, at least, non-big chain or non-franchise — entrepreneur to open on Broadway.

Seattle’s minimum wage law kicks into high gear with 2016 bump

IMG_9749

To celebrate the new wage law going into effect earlier this year, City Council member Kshama Sawant joined labor leaders and activists to pass out informational flyers and balloons to workers inside the neighborhood’s chain businesses. (Image: CHS)

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 3.43.51 PMMinimum wage earners in Seattle are getting another raise to kick off the new year. Starting in January, minimum wage workers at companies with more than 500 employees, which includes most fast food workers, will get a an 18% bump in pay from $11 to $13 an hour. Small business employees will have a $12 guaranteed minimum, an increase of $1, and those that are tipped will get a $.50 base-pay raise bringing their minimum hourly wage to $10.50.

2016’s scheduled increase is a big ramp up for Seattle’s phased-in $15 an hour ordinance, which was passed in 2014. The law went into effect this April, bringing all minimum wages to $11 an hour except for tipped workers, who went to $10 an hour.

Business owners on Capitol Hill have taken various strategies towards meeting the new requirements. Some businesses, like Molly Moon’s Ice Cream, had already brought workers to $15 an hour even though they likely wouldn’t be required to do so until 2021. While there’s been little evidence that the new minimum wage has effected business openings or closings, some Capitol Hill business owners told CHS they would have to continue to make changes to roll with the scheduled increases.

At 15th Ave’s Coastal Kitchen, menu prices will rise around 4% due to next year’s increase, according to owner Jeremy Hardy. He said the restaurant has made other changes to soften the blow to customers, changes that would continue as the ramp-up to $15 moves ahead.

“We have re-engineered our scheduling in the back of house (kitchen-typically the most difficult area to adjust as this is the power plant) as well as the front of house,” he said. “The real increases start in the following years when the increases will require a more potent elixir of adjustments to be determined.”

Retrofit Home owner Jon Milazzo said the starting wage for her employees has been $12 an hour for years, so the new minimum wouldn’t have any immediate effects. However, Retrofit will make hiring changes as scheduled increases continue past 2016.

“We wont offer part time jobs for students or entry level into our industry, you will only be able to work here coming in with a complete skill set. So that sucks all around,” she said. Continue reading

Seattle closes its first ‘$15 minimum wage’ investigation

It’s been five months since Seattle’s minimum wage law went into effect, effectively giving thousands of workers a pay raise as well as creating a new office to investigate violations of the law. Earlier this month, the relatively new Office of Labor Standards launched a dashboard to track the number of wage complaints and investigations.

So far there’s been just one closed investigation of wage theft in Seattle. It came against Homegrown sandwich shop, which has several locations in the city including one inside Capitol Hill’s Melrose Market.

According to Homegrown co-owner Ben Friedman, the investigation was opened in May after Homegrown was found to be miscalculating their tip credit at all their Seattle locations. Under the minimum wage ordinance, the tip credit allows smaller companies to pay $10 an hour if employees make $11 an hour with tips.

“Within days of receiving the notice, we sent letters out to all of our employees affected by the issue, along with back pay plus interest. The Seattle Office of Labor Standards quickly closed their investigation,” Friedman told CHS in an email. Continue reading

Owner says Capitol Hill pizza joint closing because of $15 minimum wage rules for franchises

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 10.56.16 AMThese restaurants weren’t closing because of Seattle’s new minimum wage — but this one is.

The owner of the Broadway location of Zpizza — a franchise chain with locations in 14 states, Washington D.C., and three “international” outlets — has announced she is closing her shop across from Seattle Central this summer after five years of service because Seattle’s new minimum wage law makes it too expensive for small-time franchise owners to do business.

“I’m a franchise. The law states that if you’re a franchise, you have to accelerate your minimum wage just like Amazon or Chipotle,” Ritu Shah-Burnham tells CHS. Continue reading