David Chang, Tom Colicchio, and others propose ‘Safe and Just Reopening Plan’ for restaurants

Posted On Mon, August 10, 2020 By

Posted On Mon, August 10, 2020 By In Policy, Restaurants

Photo by Marcus Herzberg from Pexels

Despite the outward success of outdoor dining, New York City’s restaurant industry is struggling. A report from the NYC Hospitality Alliance found that 83 percent of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and event venues did not pay their full July rent, and last week, unemployed Americans lost the $600 bonus to their unemployment checks. And with indoor dining on hold indefinitely, there seems to be no clear path forward. This is why nearly 50 restaurant owners in the city, including David Chang, Tom Collichio, and Danny Meyer, have penned a letter to Governor Cuomo outlining their four-part “Safe and Just Reopening Plan” that most notably calls for eliminating the tipped minimum wage.

As Gothamist and Eater explain, the plan consists of four parts:

  • Elimination of the subminimum tipped wage in New York
  • Establishment of a 5 percent “safe reopening” surcharge for restaurants that phase out the tipped minimum wage (surcharges are currently illegal in New York)
  • Allowing tips to be shared with the entire restaurant staff, including kitchen staff and back-of-house staff
  • Payroll tax relief

When it comes to the tipped minimum wage (which was eliminated across the state last year for everyone except restaurant workers), the group worked with One Fair Wage, a nonprofit that advocates for the elimination of “subminimum wages for tipped and other low-wage workers.” This group is also working alongside the city on its $3 million Restaurant Revitalization Program, which has many of the same supporters. As 6sqft previously explained, this program provides “grants of up to $30,000 each to subsidize wages of $20 per hour for at least six weeks, supporting 1,000 workers,” to restaurants who commit to $15 minimum wage on top of tips within five years of returning to regular business.

As Gothamist tells us, the letter to the governor says:

Being forced to rely solely on tips, creates a system that encourages rampant sexual harassment of women, reinforces a wide delta of inequity of race, mass disenfranchisement of immigrants, people of color and working poor… With tips vastly down in this climate already, it’s clear that having to rely on tips alone could never be sustainable.

In addition to the nearly 50 restaurant industry leaders who penned the letter to Cuomo, about 200 restaurant workers have also signed on. Those establishments in support of the plan are displaying signs in their windows that read, “Service Industry Workers & Employers United for a Safe & Just Reopening.”

Many of those behind the plan are also involved in the larger, national Independent Restaurant Coalition, a group of restauranteurs including Tom Collichio, Jose Andres, Andrew Carmellini, and Nancy Silverton, who is advocating for Congress to pass the $120 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The coalition says that without this federal intervention, 85 percent of independently owned restaurants could risk closing their doors for good and 16 million people could risk losing their jobs, disproportionately affecting people of color and single mothers.

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