Maine's restaurant industry weighs in on minimum wage, 'tip credit'
AUGUSTA (WGME) -- Hundreds of restaurant owners and even servers and bartenders packed the State House Wednesday, fighting for the return of "tip credit."
It was eliminated when the state's new minimum wage law went into effect.
A number of servers testified Wednesday, saying they rely on those tips to pay the bills and support their families.
But other servers say getting paid the full minimum wage, like everyone else, will help them make a livable wage, even in the off season.
Servers and bartenders from across Maine came to the State House with a simple message, “if it ain't broke, don't fix it.” Under the tip credit, the salary for servers in Maine was half the minimum wage, but Heather Fugere says she more than made up for it in tips.
"I can make in two to three days what it would take me to make in an 80-hour work week at $12 an hour," Fugere said.
But other servers say they see no reason why they can't have full minimum wage plus tips.
Dan Beck is co-owner of Moody's Diner. He closed the restaurant Wednesday so he and his employees could testify in support of reinstating the tip credit. He says without it, the higher salaries will push his operating costs up $40,000 this year and $300,000 when minimum wage goes up to $12 an hour.
"We've got to figure out a way,” Beck said. “You know, how do we make that up? There's a few. None of them are good."
Among those options, cutting staff, slashing benefits, and raising menu prices.
Some restaurants even started a no tip policy to attract more customers to cover the cost of the higher salaries.
Several servers testified their tips are already going down because of this, servers who fear they'll make far less in tips if they're paid the full minimum wage.
The committee did not vote on the issue Wednesday.