Here’s where to eat this week to support raising Maine’s minimum wage

Here’s where to eat this week to support raising Maine’s minimum wage

From Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery to the Lubec Brewing Company just a few hundred feet from the Canadian border and at dozens of pubs, diners, cafes and eateries in-between, Mainers will be making a statement about their support for raising the minimum wage this week by patronizing restaurants that share their values.

The Maine Small Business Coalition has announced a list of more than 50 restaurants across the state that publicly support the referendum on the ballot this November to raise Maine’s minimum wage and are encouraging campaign supporters to eat out between June 13th and 19th for an event they’re calling Fair Wage Restaurant Week.

“When you eat at one of these restaurants, snap a photo of your meal, share it on social media, and include the hashtag #FairWageME. We’ll share some of our favorites and every photo enters you for a chance to win a gift card to one of these restaurants near you,” explained coalition director Will Ikard.

Steve Corman, owner of Vena's Fizz House in Portland, speaks in favor of the minimum wage referendum

Steve Corman, owner of Vena’s Fizz House in Portland

If successful, the referendum will raise Maine’s minimum wage from the current rate of $7.50 an hour to $9 in 2017 and then a dollar a year until it reaches $12 in 2020. It would also raise the subminimum wage for service workers who receive tips from $3.75 an hour to $5 in 2017 and then a dollar a year until it reaches $12 in 2024.

“I believe very strongly it’s time to raise the minimum wage. It’s actually long past time to raise the minimum wage. You know, when you have people working full time making $300 a week, that’s not enough to live on,” said Tim Rich, owner of The Independent Cafe in Bar Harbor. “I’m frankly proud and happy to join 500 businesses across Maine who very much believe that.”

Restaurant employees are some of the lowest-paid workers in Maine and servers, even with tips, make an average of $8.72 an hour. Mostly women, these workers are twice as likely to be below the poverty line and three times as likely to use food stamps to feed their kids.

“We respect our employees and believe they deserve a fair wage,” said Alex Nevens, owner of the Newcastle Publick House. “It also makes good business sense. This initiative would generate millions in new consumer spending, creating jobs and helping to build an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few. We want more people to be able to afford to eat out at our restaurants.

The seven states that have no subminimum wage for tipped workers, many of which also have a higher base minimum wage, are projected to see stronger growth in their restaurant industries and a greater increase in restaurant employment than the rest of the country.

The full list of participating restaurants can be found at www.mainesmallbusiness.org/restaurantweek.

Photo: A table at Coveside Restaurant in South Bristol

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