Breaking Some Eggs

I had a great pleasure of meeting seven or eight of my closest friends at the River Oasis Café in Stillwater Saturday morning.

We talked about the cafe last week; they aroused the ire of the entire Minnesota Left – few of whom would ever seem to have been at the River Oasis – by putting their “minimum wage fee” on their receipts:

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First things first: It’s a classic American diner – like Mickey’s on West Seventh, or Keys, and not a whole lot of others out there anymore. The food was excellent.

I had the pleasure of talking with Craig Beemer, the owner, on my show on Saturday afternoon (and his wife on Saturday morning). And we learned a couple of things about the place, and the “controversy”.

Money:  One of the left’s main whining points about the public “minimum wage fee” is that it’s “disrespectful to the employees”.  

Of course, it’s a stupid point.  Unlike most restaurants, the Beemers already pay the back of the house staff – the line cooks, dishwashers and the like – better than minimum wage, and (according to Beemer) very competitively with the similar places in Stillwater.  That’s the kind of “respect” I actually cared about when I was a low-wage employee.

The only people making minimum wage are the waitstaff – and when you add on tips, they’re making closer to $25 an hour, often more, and the minimum wage is not an issue. 

Except for the Beemers, for whom the wage hike was a $10,000/year hit on the bottom line.   Remember – restaurants across the river in Wisconsin have a minimum wage of $3-and-change per hour.

Because they have a tip credit.

Power:  Which is what Governor Dayton’s sons asked for earlier this summer.  Andrew and Eric Dayton, owners of “The Bachelor Farmer”, a chi-chi restaurant in Minneapolis, complained to Dadders because the new, higher minimum wage hike was harshing their fiscal mellow.  They asked for…

…a tip credit.

Bonus Explanation For Leftybloggers, none of whom apparently have ever worked for tips:  you don’t work for minimum wage.  Even when there’s a “tip credit” in effect and your “wage” is $3-and-change/hour, like in most surrounding states, you’re still making more.  How much more?  If you work at a crummy place with lousy food, maybe not enough more.  If you work at Manny’s Steakhouse and tend to tables  that rack up $400-$1000 for a meal, you can make well into six digits.  In between?  It’s a complex set of dependencies; waiting skill, clientele, season, even the weather. 

But for all the crap that Tom Emmer took for his “waitstaff making over $100,000” “gaffe” four years ago, you might be amazed at the number of waitstaff that take home solid middle-class “living wages”; $50,000, $75,000 and more. 

Which isn’t bad for a trade that requires no education, licensing or anything but talent and hard work.

Which may be what bothers liberals about all of this.

“If Ifs, Ands And Buts Were Candy And Nuts, We’d All Have A Wonderful Unbedankfest”:  Here’s another note for ignorant leftybloggers; a “tip credit” acknowledges the fact that for a good waiter at a good establishment with a good clientele, the minimum wage is the fringe of their income; the owner can apply some of the waitstaff’s tips to the wage, in effect. 

“I think tipping is just wrong”, whined a massive clot of liberals last week, “and I think we should do away with it; it’s unfair.  They should all just be paid”, they say, reflecting the “progressive” desire to oversimplify the free market (and working for tips is the ultimate meritocracy). 

Of course, it’s been tried.  Not a few restaurants have tried to abolish tipping – paying their waitstaff more, and jacking up the prices accordingly, to a brief flurry of adoring media attention. 

Then they quietly vanish.  And a few years later, the cycle repeats. 

“It’s So Tacky!”:  Tackier than jamming down a minimum wage increase with the barest possible minimum of debate, and then reconsidering when the governor’s kids get into a jam? 

“Why don’t they publicize all the costs that hit their bottom line?”:   Because if they use too much electricity, they can unscrew the lightbulbs in the bathrooms.  If the price of tomatoes goes up, they can use fewer of them in their recipes.  If Ecolab cleaning products are too expensive, they can switch to Servicemaster.   In other words – as with everything in the free market (including restaurant choices), they, the consumer, can say “no” and pick a better option. 

But they can’t switch states.  Tempting as it is for many businesspeople.  Government is the one thing you can’t say “no” to, without having men in uniforms with guns busting down your door eventually. 

And the hypocrisy of a “progressive” movement that twisted itself into knots to try to legitimize the “Occupy” movement turning around and attacking an actual working business for using its right to free speech is enough to put me off my breakfast, were it less delicious.  

“What are you going to do, Berg?  Hang out there all the time?”:  It’s not really about me.  But when in Stillwater – a place I may get to annually – sure why not? 

The “point” they’re shooting for is that conservatives won’t be going there forever, and the liberals among the Oasis’ clientele will stay gone. 

I’m going to guess that most of the people doing the “protesting” have never been there, and would never have gone – and if they did, they were, like most liberals, lousy tippers anyway. 

Anyway – kudos to the Beemers.  And thanks for a fantastic breakfast, a great discussion, and for fighting a battle that a lot more people need to fight.

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