Restaurant Owners Propose Reopening Plan

Prominent restaurateurs ask Cuomo for a “safe and just” commitment to getting back to business

| 12 Aug 2020 | 11:16

COVID-19 has hurt many industries, but none more than restaurants. While they are allowed to have outdoor seating, many are still struggling.

Whether it is lack of seating, weather or too many rules to comply with, things have not been easy.

On Aug. 6, prominent restaurant owners Tom Colicchio, David Chang, Russell Jackson and Danny Meyer led a group of 50 restaurant owners and 200 workers as they proposed a “Safe and Just Reopening Plan” to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The plan calls for the elimination of sub-minimum wage for all New Yorkers, allowing for tip sharing with kitchen staff, providing tax relief for restaurants that are struggling and establishing a safe reopening fee restaurants can charge if they commit to safely reopening.

Currently, the labor law allows restaurants to pay servers $10 an hour plus tips, while NYC minimum wage is $15 an hour.

Meyer expressed his frustrations with Cuomo on social media.

“Tipping has been at the root of so many of the inequities that our interest industry has unknowingly perpetuated,” Meyer said on Twitter. “It’s not tipping itself that’s the problem; it’s the underlying rules of the game. Governor Cuomo you signed #OneFairWage for tipped workers in every industry with an exception for ours. Please let us join the other industries. It’s time.”

Eater noted that many of the restaurants that signed are part of the Restaurant Revitalization Program that the city launched in June, where every restaurant is given $30,000 to help fund payroll.

Restaurant owner and chef Russell Jackson also signed on the proposal.

“I know you’re doing the best that you can, but you have to do better,” Jackson said on Twitter. “We are the core foundation and the fabric of what makes this city great. This is supposed to be the greatest city in the world - let’s prove that! Let’s not let other countries show us the way - let’s show them the way! Step up and do the right thing. If one of us dies we all die, but with the swipe of a pen we can take one step forward.”

However, Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said not everyone is on board with this plan. He said prior to COVID-19, there were more than 25,000 restaurants employing more than 250,000 people in the five boroughs.

A few elite restaurateurs signed on to the campaign, and since then, he has heard from numerous owners that they are angry with them because eliminating the tip credit would bring massive financial consequences to their small businesses that are barely hanging on during this crisis.

“As for the others that signed on, we know some were financially compensated, but they are welcome to run their businesses however they please and don’t have to take the tip credit if they don’t want too,” Rigie said. “The other policies in their plan, such as sharing tips with kitchen workers, tax incentives and the ability to use a surcharge are nothing new and we welcome them joining us in that advocacy.”