Capitol Hill leather bar settles over city minimum wage and sick time complaint

Capitol Hill leather bar The Cuff has settled a sick time complaint with the Seattle Office of Labor Standards. The relatively small “financial remedy” will make sure dozens employees get their due, of course, but the payout can also serve as an educational moment for other employers who want to do right by the city’s Paid Sick and Safe Time and Minimum Wage ordinances.

OLS says it alleged that the Cuff was not paying the correct minimum wage in some instances and was rounding paid sick and safe time accrual down to the hour for 43 employees during the period. Continue reading

A year from ‘the big, scary jump,’ Capitol Hill small businesses take step by step approach with Seattle’s rising minimum wage

Minimum wage workers at Seattle’s small businesses continue to see their wages rise. At Elliott Bay, that can also mean people have more money to spend on books.

(Source: Seattle Office of Labor Standards)

Contrary to popular belief, Seattle does not have a $15 per hour minimum wage. At least not for every business. But the march toward $15 continues this year, and is being met with a collective yawn from many business owners around Capitol Hill, though some are looking nervously at 2020.

The slow, step by step march to $15/hour has helped.

Tracy Taylor, of Elliott Bay Book Co. said her store is managing to keep up with the increased cost of labor. She was grateful for the gradual pace of the increases so far. Moreover, she said that the increased wages have created a virtuous cycle by giving her customers more to spend.

“It appears the minimum wage is, in theory, increasing sales and consumer demand, at least from what we’ve seen. Hopefully other small businesses are finding the same,” Taylor said.

When the city implemented the minimum wage law in 2015, it started creeping toward $15 in increments, depending on the size of the company, and whether or not the company offers its employee’s benefits and/or they receive tips. Continue reading

Capitol Hill small businesses ready for 2018 bump, preparing for coming minimum wage jumps

An estimated 80,000 people who work in Seattle will be getting a raise January 1st as the city continues its long march to a $15 per hour minimum wage. That accounts for nearly 15% of the city’s workforce of 540,000. Even more could see other new benefits surrounding sick leave.

The wage increases are only part of the good news for workers. In 2016, Washington voters approved I-1433 expanding mandatory sick leave statewide. Some benefits in the initiative are more generous than those granted under city regulations, explained Karina Bull, of the city’s Office of Labor Standards.

Some of the new benefits include allowing people to take sick time to care for children of any age (the old rules only allowed for time to help minor children) and also to help siblings and grandchildren. The waiting period to qualify for paid sick time will be reduced from 180 to 90 days. Caps on the use of sick time will be forbidden. There will no longer be an exemption for employees engaged in a work-study program.

In some cases, the Seattle benefits are more generous, and will remain in place.

Bull said the City Council will likely soon consider an ordinance to implement the more generous state standards, where appropriate. Reviewing the city’s charts laying out the various changes (PDF) have become an end of the year Seattle small business tradition.

Meanwhile, in 2018, more workers will be getting more money. Continue reading

Why Capitol Hill’s newest restaurant — and plenty of others — are adding service charges

Chef and owner Brian Clevenger is celebrating the opening of Contadino and its sibling pizzeria on 19th Ave E. While he would prefer to talk about fresh pasta and pizza, he, like a growing number of Capitol Hill food and drink owners, is answering questions about an italicized note at the bottom of his menus notifying diners of a “5% service charge” that is “distributed in full to the employees you do not see” —

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While pro-labor advocates call the new crop of service charges added by owners like Clevenger protests of “the fact that they have to pay their workers a living wage,” the Contadino restaurateur says he is trying to find a new path to solve an issue close to his heart. And he might soon find some help from the last guy you might expect to lend a hand to a restaurant atop Capitol Hill, Seattle. Continue reading

At Central Co-op $15/hour celebration, a Seattle call for bump in national minimum wage

Capitol Hill’s Central Co-op hosted Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and a collection of officials and labor representatives Friday to mark the $15 minimum wage milestone in the city.

“I feel like this is the starting whistle for a labor movement that has become progressive, that’s fought for works, and that’s fought for the community on issue after issue,” Nicole Grant of the King County Labor Council said during her time at the mic during the small media conference inside the E Madison cooperative.

CHS reported earlier on the first wave of Seattle workers to reach the $15 minimum wage mark at large companies with more than 500 employees.

“We are very proud to play a role in the movement for providing a better, more livable wage,” Central Co-op representative Susanna Schultz said in a statement on the occasion. Continue reading

Tavolata brings first Stowell sequel — and another tipless joint to Capitol Hill

At work at Tavolata Capitol Hill (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

At work at Tavolata Capitol Hill (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

With the opening Tavolata on E Pike, Ethan and Angela Stowell brought their Belltown-born, modern Italian fare to Capitol Hill — they also brought a continuing to grow, new way of doing business in Seattle as the city transitions to a $15 minimum wage.

“People really love the Uber experience, where you just get out and don’t have to worry about tips,” Angela Stowell tells CHS.

According to the influential and prolific restauranteurs, the new, second Tavolata that opened a few weeks back in the Dunn Motors building at 501 E Pike is their first attempt at recreating one of their original restaurants and is the last Capitol Hill restaurant opening for the foreseeable future. Capitol Hill’s Tavolata has been tipless since it opened in late June. Angela Stowell said that almost all Stowell restaurants switched over to a service charge model on June 1. Tavolata joins a small but growing group of tipless bars and restaurants on Capitol Hill.

“We kind of waited to see how other people did it,” Stowell said.
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As sibling Liberty ponders going co-op, Good Citizen focuses on coffee, not cocktails

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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