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D.C. Restaurant Association Blasts Looming Minimum Wage Hike Vote

The trade group warns that scrapping the tip credit will cost the city jobs

Hospitality workers at a busy restaurant.
Restaurant Opportunities Centers United [Official photo]

The head of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington says if voters approve Initiative 77 on Tuesday, June 19, and eliminate the tip credit for local hospitality workers, restaurants will likely cut hours, fire staff, or close rather than shoulder the added financial burden.

The years-long battle hinges on moving the current base pay for tipped employees in D.C. from $3.33 an hour to $12.50 over time, and erasing the tip structure entirely by 2025.

“Restaurant owners and staff are united in opposition to this initiative for the disastrous consequences it could have on DC’s restaurant industry, its employees and customers — and greater economy as a whole,” RAMW president and CEO Kathy E. Hollinger said in a prepared statement following the D.C. Board of Elections’ certification of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United-backed ballot issue.

“By their own admission, the groups pushing this proposal designed it for the Applebees, IHOPs and Denny’s model of national chains, a type of restaurant that barely exists in DC,” Hollinger says of the ongoing One Fair Wage campaign, adding that the independent operators in D.C. — which RAMW calculates make up 96 percent of the hospitality base here — “are the restaurants, employees and customers who will be harmed the most by Initiative 77.”

As part of it continuing One Fair Wage campaign, ROC recently released a report showing that D.C. lags behind in tipping rates (14.9 percent versus 15.7 percent in New York City and 17.1 percent in Alaska), and that fine dining servers make less than their counterparts elsewhere ($5.30 in median hourly wages and $8.50 in median hourly tips versus the $9.60 in median hourly wages and $11.90 in median hourly tips collected by workers in San Francisco).

Local restaurateur Ari Gejdenson told Eater earlier this year that he may have to open future restaurants in Maryland if the District interferes with the existing pay scale. “At the end of the day, changing the system eliminates jobs. We will see more restaurant closings than you can imagine,” he warned.