Minneapolis Park Board dumps ‘The Yard’

Ryan Companies

The Minneapolis Park Board has dumped “The Yard.” Nick Woltman of the PiPress says, “The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board voted on Wednesday to wash its hands of a park — known informally as The Yard — planned as part of the massive Downtown East development. The board voted 6-2 to adopt a resolution removing itself from The Yard’s development, maintenance and operation, saying the space ‘does not truly qualify as a public park.’”

Still roiling: the waters around the Stillwater cafe that has added a “minimum wage fee” to patrons’ tabs. Now, Kelly Smith of the Strib says, “[Craig] Beemer, who lives in Wisconsin and has owned Oasis Cafe the past five years, wasn’t available for comment Wednesday. But Orcutt said Beemer wrote a letter to the Legislature opposing the new law. Most customers outside the cafe Wednesday supported his decision. ‘I think he did the right thing,’ said customer Mike Stephan of Taylors Falls, who also owns a small business in Stillwater. ‘If nothing else, it’s making a bold statement.’”

Related: Strib columnist Jon Tevlin notes the Blue Plate chain of local restaurants is, um, adjusting its policies as well. “Owners David Burley and Stephanie Shimp went on to say that the mandatory wage increase, plus rising expenses due to the health care law, will cost the company $1.25 million. While Blue Plate will absorb most of that cost, the company also slightly increased prices last week, and now intends to pass along the fees to ­servers when a credit card is used to pay the tip. Since most customers pay with credit cards, the hit to servers is estimated to be 2 percent of their tips, on top of the taxes they already pay.”

MPR’s Tom Scheck reports that GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson is taking heat from Grover Norquist’s shop. “The anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform is criticizing Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson for not signing the group’s pledge to not raise taxes if he’s elected governor. The group, which is run by Grover Norquist, said Johnson’s refusal to sign the pledge is a ‘Read my lips’ problem on taxes.’”

Kind of a whimper of an ending. Brandt Williams at MPR says, “A former sheriff’s deputy who claimed that the work environment in the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office had been hostile to black women for decades has reached a settlement with the county over a federal sex and race discrimination complaint. Under the agreement, [June] Johnson dismissed the complaint she filed last year, and the county admits no liability. In the four-page settlement agreement required reached quietly in April, the county paid Johnson $21,000 to compensate her for emotional damages. In return, Johnson agreed to retire.”

A series of grants has lopped $3.48 million off the cost of St.Paul’s Lowertown Stadium. Frederick Melo of the PiPress writes, “A $6 million loan that the St. Paul City Council approved last year to cover environmental issues in the construction of the Lowertown ballpark has been whittled down to $1.2 million. On Wednesday, the St. Paul City Council accepted $3.48 million in outside grants, about half of which will be used to help offset the city loan.”

In Slippery Slope news: Frederick Melo (again), writes, “Taprooms will soon be allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays in St. Paul. An ordinance adopted by the St. Paul City Council on Wednesday allows taprooms to sell alcohol made on the premises seven days a week. The new rules, which go into effect in 30 days, apply from 10 a.m. Sunday to 1 a.m. Monday.”

In its latest endorsement, the Strib likes Eden Prairie GOP House incumbent Jenifer Loon over challenger Sheila Kihne. This is the race that’s notable for Kihne’s attacks on Loon for voting for gay marriage. “Loon is a conscientious, thoughtful legislator who’s entrusted to speak for her party. It’s that esteem, and not the unwillingness of the District 48B Republican Party to endorse her for a fourth term, that should matter with voters in the Republican primary next Tuesday. Loon deserves their support over challenger Sheila Kihne. Kihne, 40, is a stay-at-home mother, author of a book about dating, and Republican activist. She declined to meet with a Star Tribune Editorial Board screening panel before the primary. We intended to ask whether her critique of Loon’s performance goes beyond Loon’s May 2013 vote to legalize same-sex marriage. We see little on Kihne’s website to suggest that it does.”

And if you’re wondering how much endorsements really matter, Robbie Feinberg of City Pages asked around. “But in bigger elections, [U of M prof Kathryn Pearson] says, where a lot is already known about both candidates, endorsements wont mean too much. A 2004 report from the American Journalism Review interviewed a number of newspaper editors and looked at a few case studies, and nearly all came back with the same result: ‘The impact of endorsements on national or even regional elections — contests in which candidates are well-known among voters — is negligible.’” So McFadden probably shouldn’t be sweating over getting denied by the Strib.”

Comments (24)

  1. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 08/07/2014 - 06:39 am.

    Minimum Wage

    I wonder how much the Oasis and Blue Plate restaurants pass on costs to customers when they give the owners and executives a raise. Is that also broken out on receipts?

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/07/2014 - 07:37 am.

    A bold statement

    ‘If nothing else, it’s making a bold statement.’

    Well, yes it is, though perhaps not one the respective restaurant owners hope the public is receiving. The Blue Plate practice of passing along fees to servers strikes me as an excellent reason to tip in cash if one really feels compelled to eat at a Blue Plate establishment. As for the Oasis Cafe, what I’m reading and hearing from an owner who’s “…unavailable for comment” suggests that it’s a business that deserves to fail. Failure often happens – not always, but often – to businesses that treat employees like so much sewage sludge.

    Todd Hintz asks an excellent rhetorical question above.

    • Submitted by Robert Owen on 08/07/2014 - 11:57 am.

      Cash – good fo the server but…

      Remember that when you tip in cash that’s off the books. If you leave a 20% tip likely only half of that is reported for tax purposes. Ask any server.

      So you might be making the server happy but the folks who collect those important income taxes might not appreciate it.

  3. Submitted by Rod Loper on 08/07/2014 - 07:59 am.

    The Yard

    Just like the “peoples’ stadium” it is not going to be a peoples’ park either. What happened to the excellent post on all this by
    Arne Carlson? Please post it again..

  4. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 08/07/2014 - 08:05 am.

    The genuises running Oasis

    OK, based on voting patterns, lets assume 50% of your potential customer base is offended by your tactics. Now let’s assume some portion of the Sam’s Club GOP also sides with the wait staff. I just hope the 1% eats out a lot or this could be a really stupisdecision on the part of the Oasis owners. Of course, that couldn’t be because small business owners are a half rung higher than God to the GOP.

  5. Submitted by Pat Berg on 08/07/2014 - 09:02 am.

    Blue Plate Restaurants and MPR

    Just heard on MPR that there’s a “Meet the MPR Newsroom” event tonight at the Freehouse. And guess what? The Freehouse is part of the Blue Plate Restaurant chain.

    If I’d been planning to attend that event, I’d seriously reconsider. Why should I bring any more revenue to a business that never misses a chance to stiff their servers?

    • Submitted by Robert Owen on 08/07/2014 - 11:16 am.

      What about the servers’ revenue?

      You boycotting a restaurant may hurt its bottom line. Sure. But it also means that the servers aren’t getting ANY tips from you either.

      • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 08/07/2014 - 12:33 pm.

        Revenue

        True, but eventually the restaurant will go under (look at Tony Sutton’s place), declare bankruptcy, and a new place will take over the location. In the short term the wait staff can decide if they’re making enough money and move on to other digs if they feel they aren’t.

        Personally, I like to reward businesses that treat their employees well. That means voting with my dollars.

      • Submitted by Pat Berg on 08/07/2014 - 12:56 pm.

        Yes . . . . .

        I realize that. But it’s still no reason to reward the business owner for bad behavior.

        Unfortunately, many things in life are not clearly “black and white”, so we all must simply make the best decisions we can to try and align our behaviors with our value systems.

  6. Submitted by Elsa Mack on 08/07/2014 - 09:08 am.

    Oasis

    I like how Beemer doesn’t even live in Minnesota. Benefits from our infrastructure and the nice Stillwater location, but doesn’t pay for any of it… and now doesn’t want to pay his employees what Minnesota requires either.

    The disdain for restaurant workers is a sad thing to see. These are hardworking people who haven’t gotten a raise in ten years. I’ve never eaten at the Blue Plate restaurants much just because, on my few visits to them, I’ve found the food mediocre and over-priced. Guess I have yet another reason to avoid these places.

    Separate topic, though: taprooms open on Sundays–woohoo!

    • Submitted by Chris Williams on 08/07/2014 - 03:15 pm.

      Bridge

      Good thing we’re building him that bridge to nowhere in Stillwater. Maybe he’ll visit his restaurant more often if he doesn’t have to wait in traffic at the lift bridge 🙂

  7. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 08/07/2014 - 09:11 am.

    Elected Politicians vs Grover Norquist – ELECTED TO NOTHING

    Norquist has the GOP right by the gruff of the neck because to GOP lacks the skill and common sense to make their own decisions. Norquist, connected to the Polaroid fortune, spends his time making sure he doesn’t lose a cent of his fortune. Republicans aren’t allowed to stray from the failed Republican doctrine even when it will benefit Republicans as well. Norquist is a short sighted self serving individual who deserves no more attention than you or I as he has been elected to NOTHING!

  8. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/07/2014 - 09:27 am.

    Unwise management grab of tip income

    Blue Plate Restaurants and Parasole Restaurant Holdings, which according to the Strib article has implemented the same or similar policy of taking money from server’s tips when these are paid with a credit card, have made a terribly misguided business decision here.

    Just to clear up any confusion about exactly which restaurants these chains run, here is the list:

    Blue Plate Restaurants:

    The Freehouse
    The Lowry
    Scusi
    Three Squares Restaurant
    Longfellow Grill
    Edina Grill
    Groveland Tap
    Highland Grill

    Parasole Restaurant Holdings:

    Manny’s Steakhouse
    Mozza Mia
    Chino Latino
    Salut Bar Americain
    Pittsburgh Blue Steakhouse (Maple Grove, Edina)
    Muffuleta
    Good Earth
    The Living Room
    Prohibition
    Burger Jones

    I’ll not eat at any of these places until they change this policy. It is truly obnoxious. The owners or managers forget that many of us have actually waited tables at some point in our lives. We empathize with the waitstaff.

    When I tip, I tip the waitperson for their service, not the owner or manager, and I tip well. I reward good management by returning for future meals. Likewise, I reward bad management by not returning, except I’ll give them one more chance at my business after lodging a complaint.

    Even in cases where the food is of poor quality (bad management, who are paying no attention), I don’t penalize the waitperson, who normally is not at fault, and go ahead and tip for the service anyway. I also tell the management about the food quality problem, because I know from experience it is the only way they find out, also noting to them that the complaint has nothing to do with service, which I note to them was just fine.

    Maybe the time has come in our current business ethics environment for the wait staff to pay for even more business process operational expenses – elected by management – out of the staff’s pockets. If so, it would be perfectly consistent to charge off other similar expenses in the payment system – say, a check was accepted and bounced…why not charge the waitperson the $30 or $40 fee the bank levies, taking it out of wages ?? Why not the whole tab ??

    Heck, why not take ALL payment transaction fees out of the hide of the waitstaff ?? Is there any real difference here ?? In all these cases, the waitstaff is helpless to stop the loss.

    Kris Jacobs, executive director of Jobs Now Coalition, couldn’t cloak her sarcasm. “You know, rich waitresses are ruining everything,”

    These restaurant operators are taking a page from Zygi Wilf’s playbook. Can we ever forget his testimony that he screwed over his partners because he thought they were getting “too good a deal” ? You know, maybe that bump in the minimum wage for servers is too good a deal – let’s take some of it back.

    An employee of Blue Plate put it this way: “It’s just bad morale when [Burley] drives up in a Porsche, and yet he wants my 2 ¬percent,” an employee said.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 08/07/2014 - 12:34 pm.

      Restaurants

      Thanks for posting the names of the restaurants. I live near quite a few of them and now know which ones to avoid.

  9. Submitted by David Wintheiser on 08/07/2014 - 10:25 am.

    Not seeing the benefit versus the negative PR

    First, be aware that Minnesota State Law does allow employers to deduct some of a credit card charge from an employee’s tips, but the law specifies that only a percentage of the tip can be taken:

    “Where a tip is given by a customer through a credit or charge card, the full amount of tip must be allowed the direct service employee minus only the percentage deducted from the tip in the same ratio as the percentage deducted from the total bill by the service company.”

    (from https://www.revisor.mn.gov/rules/?id=5200.0080)

    In other words, if a customer pays a $50 bill plus leaves a $10 tip with a credit card that charges a 2% fee to the restaurant, the restaurant can’t take $1.20 out of the tip (2% of the total charge); they can only take $0.20 (2% of the tip).

    On one hand, I’m surprised more restaurants don’t do this — in effect, the law simply says that a restaurant can charge the tipped employee for the cost of processing their tip via credit card, which actually seems pretty fair.

    On the other hand, I can imagine why most restaurants don’t do this — the cost is minuscule compared to the negative PR generated by the perception that the restaurant owner is a cheapskate. If he’ll take $0.20 out of an employee’s tip, what other shortcuts is he taking?

    I’d advise any server working for a Blue Plate restaurant to keep careful track of the credit card charges — if the restaurant is taking the full amount of the credit card fee for the customer’s charge out of your tips, that’s illegal and should be reported.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 08/07/2014 - 12:44 pm.

      Benefits

      I disagree that the 2% charge seems fair to the wait staff. From my point of view handling credits cards is simply part of the business overhead; CODB (cost of doing business). To shove that expense off on the employees–some of the hardest working and least paid people in the company–seems small minded. Yes, they can do it, but should they be doing it?

      Given the huge amount of negative publicity they receive just so they can stiff the wait staff for 20¢ here and there strikes me as an injustice of a thousand pin pricks. Instead of being a prick, treat your employees well and that will in turn translate to increased loyalty and sales as the word gets out about what great people they are to work for.

      Unfortunately most businesses are treated as an entitlement program for the executives and the books balanced off the backs of the rank and file. This is born out in wage statistics that show executive compensation has gone through the roof over the past thirty plus years while middle class income has been stagnant and lower class income has dropped. How about a little equity in the system?

  10. Submitted by Sally Sorensen on 08/07/2014 - 11:17 am.

    Beemer part of anti-minimum wage hike pro-tip credit lobbying

    The minimum wage “fee” is a publicity stunt on the part of a businessman who participated in earlier public relations efforts to try to quash the minimum wage hike and to institute the “tip credit.”

    The industry failed to make this case in the 2013-2014 legislative session and Beemer doesn’t seem to know when to stop digging.

    Indeed, in 2013, he was the poster child for a DC-based front group started by notorious industry flack Richard Bermon.

    Here’s my post about the Beemer-EPI connection from two days ago:

    http://www.bluestemprairie.com/bluestemprairie/2014/08/stillwater-cafe-charging-minimum-wage-fee-was-part-of-failed-industry-effort-for-tip-credit.html

  11. Submitted by Brian Scholin on 08/07/2014 - 11:52 am.

    Unwise Business Practices

    Not only are these business owners working against their own interests in terms of alienating patrons and staff in order to save a minuscule amount of profit, they are working against their stated goals of eliminating regulation by making an excellent case for the need for regulation.

    I will now do what I can to not give them any more profit, and to promote those politicians who understand the need for regulation in this less-than-perfect world.

  12. Submitted by Hal Davis on 08/07/2014 - 12:06 pm.

    Tip in cash

    We occasionally eat at Blue Plate and Parasole restaurants. We’ve been aware of this potential — owners stiffing the waitstaff — for a while. So we always tip in cash.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 08/07/2014 - 12:29 pm.

      Restaurants

      I think I’ll go one step further and instead skip these places to instead patronize restaurants who treat their employees well. It’s not like there’s a shortage of good eateries in the Twin Cities to choose from. If they’re cheaping out on a paltry 2% of a $20 tip, what else are they skimping on? I’ll guarantee you that the executives don’t have to pitch in a nickle to help balance the company’s books.

  13. Submitted by Robley Henry on 08/07/2014 - 05:17 pm.

    2% not new

    Restaurants have been passing on the credit card charge to servers/bartenders for years. I’ve been assuming they all do so I always tip with cash.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/10/2014 - 02:50 pm.

    Prolly not worth it

    I think the additional bookwork involved in taking that fee out of the merchant transaction and keeping track of it for every server is probably more costly than it’s worth. This is just a stunt. Whats funny is, it’s such small beans over-all that the owners just look silly making a deal out of it.

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