Minimum wage increase benefits some, not others |

Minimum wage increase benefits some, not others

Restaurant servers and bartenders are likely to benefit the most from the minimum wage increase.
Joel Reichenberger

Minimum wage for non-tipped employees

2016: $8.31 per hour

2017: $9.30 per hour

2018: $10.20 per hour

2019: $11.10 per hour

2020: $12 per hour

Minimum wage for tipped employees

2016: $5.29 per hour

2017: $6.28 per hour

2018: $7.18 per hour

2019: $8.08 per hour

2020: $8.98 per hour

— Steamboat Springs restaurant servers and bartenders are likely to be the biggest winners when the state begins ratcheting up the minimum wage Jan. 1, 2017.

With the high cost of living and low unemployment rate, most jobs in Steamboat already pay above the current minimum wage of $8.31 per hour.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Vice President of Human Resources Trish Sullivan said the ski area’s entry-level positions typically have a starting wage of $10 per hour.

But those who receive tips will get a bump from $5.29 per hour to $6.28 per hour in 2017.

That additional 99 cents per hour means an additional $2,060 per year for a full-time server. In 2018, they will make an additional $1,870. Those costs will add up quickly for business owners.

Rex Brice, who owns Rex’s Family of Restaurants, said it will cost his six restaurants $150,000 in 2017. That will force him to raise prices. He thinks other restaurants have already raised their prices.

“If our prices go up 5 percent next year, we’re not even covering the increases in wages,” Brice said. “We’ll raise prices as little as we can.”

Brice was against Amendment 70, which voters approved to raise the non-tipped minimum wage to $12 by 2020 and to $8.98 for workers who receive tips.

Brice was not opposed because it meant he would have to raise prices. He was concerned because he thinks it does not benefit the workers who need it the most.

His entry-level employees, such as a dishwasher, already make well above the minimum wage at $12 per hour. It is his employees who are already the highest earners — the servers and bartenders — who are getting the 99-cent-per-hour raise in 2017.

Brice said on a slow night, a server with tips will make $20 per hour. On a great night, they can make upwards of $50 per hour.

“In the short term, the people that make the most in my company just got a raise,” Brice said.

Brice said margins are thin in the restaurant industry, and it is not as simple as giving the dishwashers and other back-of-the-house employees a raise.

“There is a disparity in the back-of-the-house and the front-of-the-house employees, and that gap is getting bigger,” Brice said. “It’s a challenge in the industry.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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