Maine restaurant owners switch sides, back minimum wage referendum

Maine restaurant owners switch sides, back minimum wage referendum

Maine’s restaurant lobby has for decades been one of the staunchest opponents of raising the minimum wage, but now that resistance seems to be crumbling. This week, the owners of several high-profile restaurants that had previously given to an anti-minimum wage PAC have announced their support for Question 4, the November ballot measure to raise Maine’s minimum wage.

In a Portland Phoenix cover story that hit newsstands today, Mike Wiley, chef and co-owner of Eventide Oyster Co., Hugo’s and The Honey Paw in Portland, announced that he would be voting yes on Question 4. Joining him is Teresa Chan, the owner of Empire. Both had previously contributed to the Maine Restaurant Association’s anti-minimum wage PAC.

“I personally believe hard workers deserve a better wage,” Chan told the Phoenix.

Dave Evans, the owner of the Great Lost Bear and one of the largest contributors to the anti-Question 4 PAC, says in the same article that he’s now undecided on the referendum.

Wiley and Chan join the owners of more than sixty other restaurants across the state who have already endorsed Question 4. Michael Landgarten, owner of Bob’s Clam Hut and two other restaurants in Kittery, is featured in a Yes on 4 TV ad that will begin airing this week.

“We’re glad that so many business and restaurant owners are speaking out about the need to raise Maine’s minimum wage and especially the importance of raising the subminimum wage for workers like restaurant servers who often live off tips,” said Mike Tipping, communications director for Mainers for Fair Wages. “We encourage everyone who cares about fair wages for Maine workers to give these folks your business and thank them for speaking out.”

The new restaurant endorsements come as the Maine Restaurant Association has begun a misinformation campaign against the initiative, including falsely claiming that it will force restaurant closures and hurt restaurant workers.

If passed, Question 4 will increase the minimum wage from $7.50 to $9 in 2017 and then by a dollar each year until it reaches $12 in 2020, with cost of living increases after that. It will also increase the subminimum wage for service workers who receive tips from $3.75 an hour to $5 in 2017 and then by a dollar each year until it reaches the minimum wage.

Photo via Flickr/Elizabeth Joseph.

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