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Minimum wage hike: Cambria restaurants discuss impact amid COVID-19 hardships

Posted at 5:10 PM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 01:09:37-05

California's minimum wage is going up on January 1.

The legislation to gradually raise pay was enacted pre-pandemic, leaving some business owners in a tight spot.

"It probably couldn't come at a worse time as far as the bottom line is concerned," said Steve Kniffen, General Manager of The Sea Chest Restaurant.

Minimum wage for businesses with 25 or more employees will increase from $13 an hour to $14. It's part of the state's long-term minimum wage goal of $15 an hour by 2022.

"There could be a great argument saying, let's just cool our jets for a year and allow things to kind of settle in," said John Mackinnon, Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill Managing Partner.

The Sea Chest Restaurant says most of its employees already make above minimum wage but given that we're in a pandemic, they won't see even higher pay the first of the year.

What might be higher, however, are the prices on the menu.

"There's no other way for a restaurant to recoup that loss except through price increases," Kniffen said.

Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill says for them, this could mean a price increase of 2% to 3%.

"We'll roll with the punches as we have all year," Mackinnon said.

Madeline's Restaurant owner says roughly two-thirds of their employees will see the pay increase in 2021.

"In general, I think that the yearly increases have caused me to do more cross-training so that the employees who are doing a good job can work different positions and keep the hours that they would normally get," said David Stoothoff, Madeline's Restaurant Chef/Owner.

Omar Catalan is a busser and server who says the upcoming pay increase is a pick-me-up. He adds that it'll also offset the lack of tips with dine-in suspended during the stay-at-home order.

"During this time, anything helps so I'll take the 50 cents, $1, or $3. I mean, whatever it is, I'll take it," Catalan said.