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Restaurateur Andy Shallal Calls for Compromise in Tipped Wage Fight

He urges the D.C. City Council to keep talking about the minimum wage after the June 19 vote on Initiative 77

D.C. restaurateur Andy Shallal.
Andy Shallal/Facebook

Politically active restaurateur Andy Shallal says the June 19 vote on Initiative 77 — the polarizing measure that would incrementally raise the minimum wage and abolish tip-based pay structures — should not be the last word on the matter. He’s urged local officials to keep the conversation going, no matter the outcome, so that all sides can “find common ground toward moving away from tips as the sole source of income for restaurant tipped workers.”

“Each side has to understand the impact this type of legislation would have, and all sides have to agree that a compromise would have to be struck,” Shallal wrote in a social media post calling on the D.C. City Council to host a round table about how hospitality workers get paid. Under current law, hospitality workers eligible for tips can be paid $3.33 an hour so long as the corresponding gratuities meet the existing minimum wage ($12.50). Pro-labor group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROCU) wants to eradicate tip-based pay and raise the minimum wage for all workers to $15 an hour by 2025; industry group Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington and most members of the city council oppose the measure.

While he did not come out for or against Initiative 77, Shallal said it was imperative to seize on the momentum it has garnered to affect constructive changes.

“We need to revisit how tipping culture and practice came about and look for a more equitable way for workers to get compensated that goes beyond the whim of a diner or a patron,” he wrote. “This practice is not acceptable in any other industry and we in the restaurant business should not be the last holdouts.”

Eater reached out to D.C. City Council chairman Phil Mendelson about the possibility of following through with Shallal’s proposal but has not heard back.

Shallal, who ran for mayor in 2014 on a populist platform, has remained silent on which side of the minimum wage fight he is on. During an interview in May with the Washington Business Journal he quizzed one of his employees about how much servers make: he was told the pay, with tips, typically ranged from $20 an hour to $40 an hour. Still, Shallal told WBJ he is considering instituting a new service charge that would be equally distributed between employees both in the front and back of the house to even out the pay for everyone.

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