As the City of Santa Monica considers a local minimum wage ordinance, local businesses are starting to engage with the city, and each other, in preparation for a wage hike.
Local business owners gathered for an informal informational meeting last week and members of the business community will have an opportunity to speak with city officials in the coming weeks.
Last week, local businessman Hunter G. Hall organized a discussion focused on the restaurant industry. As a member of the LA Neighborhood Restaurant Coalition, he said the meeting was designed to update locals on the lessons already learned in Los Angeles.
“It is important we quickly form the core group of business owners, operators and volunteers, as well as raise funds to hire the right people to assist us through this process with City Council by doing the proper polling, community outreach, etc.,” he said.
Hall said many business owners favored a $15 minimum wage, but said the issue should be approached in fair way and with the knowledge of the potential implications.
“We wholeheartedly support a $15 minimum wage, we simply advocate a responsible and palatable transition to it that mimics the same timeline and considerations as the City of Los Angeles and allows small businesses time to adjust their own operations in order to not only stay in business, but to thrive and avoid cutting too many jobs in the process,” he said. “Just as important as the actual wage itself are other considerations, such as paid sick leave, minors in the workplace, service charges and tip pooling, as well as the proposed union exemption.”
Hall of CBB Restaurant Group and Archetype Hospitality spoke last week alongside Courtney Torres of C.T. Consulting and Jamarah Harris of the Lee Andrews Group.
Hall said Santa Monica is not known as a business friendly city and cited the push of tech companies south and the emergency of Abbot Kinney as evidence of businesses leaving the city. He said raising the minimum wage could be more damaging to the city’s economic reputation unless the issue is handled carefully.
“Our concerns are, quite frankly, that because of its reputation as being a progressive and liberal city, Santa Monica will go out of its way to ‘one up’ Los Angeles by either instituting a higher overall minimum wage or by moving to the $15 minimum wage at a faster pace than Los Angeles,” he said. “This quixotic approach to legislation surrounding free market variables like labor and cost of goods rarely serves the purpose and/or people it was originally intended, and often times has more negative effects than positives. Sadly, it would only serve to further tarnish Santa Monica’s reputation as one unfriendly to commerce and drive business, especially small business, even further away. Throughout greater Los Angeles, Santa Monica is already known as a very difficult city to do business in and this would certainly not help that perception.”
He said a rushed implementation or too high a minimum wage would force small operators to reconsider staying in Santa Monica.
“The majority of our residents pride themselves on being progressive and compassionate on all socio-economic issues. They wholeheartedly espouse a lifestyle of sustainability for example, and want to buy high quality products from local vendors, and eschew chains and conglomerates. No one want’s Santa Monica to be overrun by Chili’s and Target, but those are the only businesses that can afford such crippling regulation,” he said. “Those ideals and maxims come at a price and they are not by any means always going to remain feasible if our political and economic climate changes in a manner that’s perceived as unfriendly to commerce, especially small business. We will see more and more small businesses close and more chains and conglomerates come in. The first Cheesecake Factory is already under construction. What’s next? Imagine Main Street as a strip of Chili’s, Applebees and P.F. Changs. Not so charming, is it? Where will all those businesses go? Not Santa Monica … Why would they when they can set up a few miles to the south for half the price and open up shop twice as fast?”
The City wants to hear from businesses and is hosting discussions on Aug. 12 and 18 with Dr. Michael Reich, Professor of Economics and Director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California at Berkeley.
“The purpose of the meeting is to gather input and feedback from the local business community about a potential Santa Monica minimum wage ordinance, modeled after that of the City of Los Angeles. Dr. Reich provided analysis for the Los Angeles ordinance, and will facilitate the discussion and answer questions. Everyone in the local business community is welcome and encouraged to attend,” said the city in its event announcement.
The Aug. 12 event will run from 9 -11 a.m. and the Aug. 18 will be held from 2 – 4 p.m. Both events will be at the Santa Monica Main Library, 601 Santa Monica Blvd., Multi- Purpose Room (2nd floor). For more information contact Stephanie Lazicki at
(310) 458-2201 ext. 2062. For more information on the Neighborhood Restaurant Council, visit NRC.LA