I bartend at Witness on Broadway and I just started at Tavern Law as well. Five days a week isn’t that bad; I’ve done six days before, and I know people that even do seven days. It’s an industry you fall in love with. I absolutely love craft cocktail culture. There’s a historical aspect of it, there’s the scientific aspect of it, there’s the creative aspect of it. I love that it’s becoming a respected position. When I started bartending, a lot of people were like, “When are you going to get a real job?”
Most of my work has been in the service industry, so I have been working for minimum wage my entire life. Minimum wage for me is a bit different than for the average person because I do earn tips as well. I’m able to get by just fine. And pay my bills and my rent and my student loans, and still have money left over to travel and go have dinner with my friends.
There’s obviously an ideal scenario where the $15 minimum wage happens and businesses can still continue to function the way they are, people still continue to tip. I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen, and that worries me.
Will people keep tipping? That is a huge concern I have. That was something that I hear a lot of people discuss—they don’t want to tip as much if they know their bartender or server is now making $15 an hour. Making $15 an hour and no tips is far less than when I currently make. That would make things difficult. It would be an adjustment.
The whole string of restaurants that have been closing lately—I don’t know if it’s because of the minimum wage; I fear that it is. I worry that people are going to lose their jobs. I worry that people are gonna have to have their hours cut because of the increased cost of labor.
If there was a tip credit that was where the minimum wage is right now, and it adjusted every single year to the cost of living, I would be 100 percent okay with that. And that would free up more money to go toward the back of the house.
This is not me wanting to keep people at a disadvantage, which is actually something that I have been told. This is me wanting to preserve and protect an industry that so many people love and care about. An industry that gives people the means to go to school, care for their children, pursue their hobbies and passions. A restaurant is not the same as, let’s say, Target or Fred Meyer. Slapping a solution across the board to all businesses and expecting it to work for all industries, big and small, is not very well thought-out, in my opinion.
My philosophy is that if it’s not broken don’t fix it, and I don’t really see the minimum wage, the way it functions in Seattle, as broken. I absolutely love the people I work with at Witness. I’m fortunate to work there. I don’t want anything to change.
—As told to Allison Williams