Mayor Tornek Meets With Unhappy Restaurant Owners

Published : Thursday, July 13, 2017 | 9:18 PM

Mayor Terry Tornek (file photo)

Local restaurant owners asked Mayor Terry Tornek to form a committee to take a close look at the Pasadena minimum wage and how it is impacting local businesses in 2018.

The request was one of three made by the business owners who remain upset over the process that led to the Pasadena minimum wage increase — and the increase itself. About 25 business owners attended the event in Council Chambers at City Hall on Thursday afternoon.

“We were promised our voices would be heard,” said Michael Hawkins, partner at Green Street Restaurant. “But it went straight to Ed Tech.”

“You were heard,” Mayor Tornek responded. “You just did not get the result you wanted.”

The owners also requested Tornek write a letter to the Speaker of the California State Assembly and the President Pro Tem of the State Senate asking them to open a dialogue to consider the unintended consequences of the state’s minimum wage, and a total compensation plan.

Under a total compensation plan, part of an employee’s earnings are an hourly wage, the rest is made up of other forms of compensation — tips, commissions, bonuses, and benefits.

Per capita, Pasadena is among the top cities in the country when it comes to the number of restaurants in the city.

Local restaurant owners have been upset since the Council voted to increase the minimum wage last February. They claim that Tornek promised them that he would put together an ad hoc committee to study the issue, but never did so. After a series of public meetings, the issue went to the City’s Economic Development and Technology Committe, which crafted the wage hike.

The wage increased to $12 on July 1 and will increase to $13.25 on July 1, 2018 for companies with 26 or more employees. Smaller companies will see similar wage jumps in the future.

In 2019, city staff will conduct a study on the impacts of the pay increase.

That study will include analysis of the new wage’s effects on reducing poverty and unemployment, job creation and the other consequences to the city’s overall business climate. Provided everything is going well, the wage will increase to $14.25 on July 1, 2019 and $15 on July 1, 2020.

The wage was established during a growing movement by cities across the country to increase the minimum wage. The movement started in Seattle and swept through California where Los Angeles County eventually established a wage for unincorporated areas throughout the county. Surrounding areas including Glendale and Arcadia have a lower wage than Pasadena. Restaurant owners said the increase will force businesses to close and layoff some employees.

“Change is something that happens whether you like it or not,” Tornek said on Thursday. “Our attitude is to try to get ahead of it and work with it.”

On Thursday, restaurant owners told Mayor Tornek that all is not going well and they have not hired any teenagers this year. Many restaurants have traditionally provided teens summer jobs, or their entry into the workplace. One owner said this is the first time in 32 summers that he has not hired temporary help.

“No restaurant owners are hiring teenagers this summer,” said Robin Salzer, who owns Robin’s Woodfire BBQ. “The morale among business owners is down.”

After Salzer asked Tornek why the ad hoc committee was not put together, Tornek said he did not want to go into the process, and the topic moved to other subjects including public safety and the city’s continued battle against homelessness.

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