The Whale Wins. Soon to be a no-tipping zone.

Today the folks at Sea Creatures, Renee Erickson's nautical coterie of restaurants, shared details on how they plan to absorb the costs associated with Seattle's minimum wage, plus federal health care.

Starting Monday, May 4, The Walrus and the Carpenter, The Whale Wins, and Barnacle will no longer accept tips. In their place, customers will pay a set 18.5 percent service charge.

The goal, according to a statement, is complying with these requirements, but also attracting and retaining great people. A service charge, say Erickson and partners, means closing the wage gap between employees in the kitchen and the dining room, and gives them more ability to offer health insurance and matching contributions for retirement accounts.

According to Price, the partners settled on the 18.5 number "because it is 3 percent less than what people tend to tip. Our hope is this makes it easier for those customers uncomfortable with the idea of a compulsory service charge."  

Erickson's business partner Jeremy Price says this will also likely apply to Sea Creatures' forthcoming cafe and oyster bar, opening later this year on Capitol Hill. Boat Street Cafe will remain unchanged in its final weeks. And no, its closure has nothing to do with the new minimum wage law.

Restaurateurs in the city have been debating how to comply with our landmark minimum wage law while also balancing their budgets in a business where margins are notoriously thin...all without alienating customers. Tom Douglas planned to add a 2 percent surcharge at all his restaurants (not including tip) but recanted after receiving some seriously negative feedback.

Meanwhile, my colleague Matt Halverson has been running a series of interviews with people who will benefit the most from a higher minimum wage, many of whom are in the food and hospitality industry. 



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