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Cafe owner: I will ‘go out of business overnight’ if forced to pay $15 wage

IMG_2530SEATTLE — I-Miun Liu opened his Seattle coffee shop, Eastern Cafe, 10 months ago — just as the push started in the city to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“This is kind of my passion, to create spaces in the community, and work with people and customers,” Liu said Thursday.

He took out loans and maxed out his credit cards to open the cafe. But his business model never included raising wages to $15 an hour.

“Our daily payroll would be higher than what we bring in in daily sales,” said Liu. “We’d literally go out of business overnight.”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray doesn’t have a finished plan for implementing $15 an hour, but expects minimum wage increases to be phased in for small businesses. Even if the increase is phased in, Liu will have to raise prices, and may still go out of business.

Many restaurant owners in the area said it’s inevitable that menu prices will go up with the minimum wage increase.

Supporters of $15 an hour say it’s needed to give workers around the city a livable wage. They also argue that the wage increases will give a larger population more money to spend at places like cafes.

“If the minimum was increased for everybody, you would see an increase in people going out and spending more money,” said Hanna Beaton, a bartender in Seattle. “Restaurant sales would also increase.”

Liu believes the profit margins are just too slim. He’s considering taking his passion out of Seattle and opening a café in another city such as Renton or Bellevue.

“I don’t take a paycheck from here at all,” he said, “and we’re barely making it.”

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11 comments

  • NWB

    Minimum wage DOES NOT MEAN livable wage. Your first job is the most important job you have because it is a way to get into the job market, get some experience, and move into a career that fits you. Employers benefit and so does the employee, through experience gained. This is ridiculous!

  • Matt

    People who are pushing for a raise in the minimum wage have absolutely ZERO concept of business or how the economy works…

    to the comment made by the bartender in Seattle…. “If the minimum was increased for everybody, you would see an increase in people going out and spending more money. Restaurant sales would also increase.”…. That's ludicrous.

    Prices at these restaurants will increase to cover the costs of the increased wages… people making minimum wage would still spend the SAME percentage of their income on such items… you might make more money, but that cup of coffee is now $6 instead of $3… That meal that you used to be able to buy for $12 will now cost you $25! You are NOT going to go out and spend twice what you are used to spending now… trust me!

    Minimum wage jobs, if the rate goes up, will no longer be 'entry level' positions… they will go to older, more responsible adults – not the teenagers or college students they were intended for. Why should burger flippers make more than an Vocational School educated mechanic?

    And where does all of this money come from to pay these higher wages? CEOs of small businesses certainly aren't sitting on TONS of extra cash… they will have to let people go, decrease the hours of their employees, increase their prices/fees for whatever service or product they provide… The whole thing is ridiculous.

  • Slam1263

    Time for all those businesses, that have been running their mouths in support of this idea, to step up, and start paying thier people at least $15 an hour.

    C'mon, stick it to the man, pay your grunts a living wage.

    Otherwise STFU, and GTFO.

    • Ted

      Ooooh, what a dilemma, a living wage for the poor, you moron. Cost of living has way more than doubled since the the last time there was a wage hike.

  • ouroboros14and88

    Anyone remember when we called it the USSA when the new word order was starting to gain momentum? Get ready for another HOLODOMOR and bloody red October. How long can we say, "couldn't happen to us" before the hammer and cycle falls on our heads? The events of the last five decades couldn't match the protocols of Zion any better.