It all started with a story published in a local Seattle lifestyle magazine earlier this month. It contains a headline that is intended to interest the reader and has little relation to the facts of the actual printed story that it announces.
It was a story that recorded the imminent closure of four popular restaurants in the city of Seattle – a city where the minimum wage for restaurant workers is about to rise significantly.
Now if you’re wondering how a story about just four restaurants can become a national meme claiming large numbers of Seattle restaurants are closing due to the impending rise in employee salaries, you are in good company.
Stay tuned and you will have your answer.
After the above story was published, it took only a moment – in complete disregard of what the owners of these restaurants cited as the reason for their businesses to close – for those with a legitimate interest in confirming their point of view on the minimum wage order use history as confirmation of their individual prediction skills.
Initially, it was a Washington-based think tank called the Washington Policy Center – a think tank fully supported by Washington State’s local business interests – that took the opportunity to issue a press release announcing that the 15th Seattle Dollar Wage Act was a “factor” in restaurant closings.
It doesn’t matter that not even one of the restaurant closings discussed in the original pointed to the impending increase in the minimum wage as a reason for their decision to close their business. And it doesn’t matter that the owner of one of the four restaurants discussed is currently opening two new restaurants in Seattle. It was a headline that opponents of the city-wide increase in the minimum wage couldn’t resist – and shouldn’t stand in the way of facts.
Not satisfied with the fact that the restaurant closings discussed in Seattle Magazine were the result of rising minimum wages – despite all evidence to the contrary – the Washington Policy Center informed us that there is “an increasing trend in restaurant closings” in Seattle, without a notice as much as a source or authority to substantiate their statement.
But there’s a very good reason the think tank didn’t provide an indication of a “rising trend in restaurant closings” – there is no such rising trend in restaurant closings in Seattle.
Given that few have ever heard of the Washington Policy Center, the story went virtually unnoticed until Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute announced that Seattle is a city that has “seen … a series of restaurant closings and job losses in the Related to the government-mandated wage increase. “
When a credible organization like the AEI makes such a statement, it is sure to get an air of authenticity and become a story worthy of note. Indeed, if any of Mr Perry’s statements were true, it would give minimum wage increase supporters something very serious to ponder.
Then, of course, Rush weighed Limbaugh, who should not be excluded from the party, by stating that the “Seattle libs” had killed the restaurant industry in their city.
As the saying goes, the rest is history.
Every conservative news agency read the story and provided evidence that raising the minimum wage kills companies and therefore destroys the jobs of those who are supposed to benefit from the minimum wage.
The Seattle Times was curious about the future of their home restaurant industry and decided to do a bit of digging. After all, nobody wants their favorite hometown restaurants to close.
Was it actually true that the restaurants the lifestyle magazine wrote about closed because of the impending rise in the minimum wage?
Make up your own mind.
In a bold statement that led to what was thought of as a truth check, the Seattle newspaper wrote, “Conservative experts say the recent Seattle restaurant closings may have been linked to the new $ 15 minimum wage. We find this claim incorrect. “
How did the Seattle Times come to this conclusion? After all, everyone from Rush Limbaugh to AEI to Forbes to Tim Worstall had told us otherwise.
The Seattle newspaper began communicating with all the restaurateurs who were the subject of the original piece that caused the commotion in the conservative bubble.
First, the newspaper interviewed Renee Erickson, who is closing their Boat Street Café. This is the owner I referred to earlier who currently runs three more restaurants in Seattle and is currently opening two more.
How did Erickson react to the suggestion that the upcoming minimum wage hike had taken place in your restaurant?
“That’s weird, ha. No, that’s not why I’m closing Boat Street. I would have said it. “
Erickson continued, “I’m fully on board with the $ 15 min. It’s the right thing to do … Starting more businesses wouldn’t be wise if I felt that it would hamper my success. “
Now there is an understatement. After all, a restaurant owner who shut down for fear of rising staff costs would hardly want to open two new restaurants.
The next stop was a conversation with the owners of the restaurant Little Onkel, Poncharee Kounpungchart and Wiley Frank, who had this to say in an email:
“We were never interviewed for these articles and have not closed our… location because of the new minimum wage. We don’t know what our colleagues are doing to prepare for the start of the new law, but the preventive closure of a restaurant seven years before the law takes full effect seems absurd to us. “
That seems pretty clear, not just in their statement that the minimum wage has nothing to do with the closure, but that logic implies the idea of closing a restaurant seven years before they even know what the minimum wage will mean for their business could hardly support it.
Mr. Frank was so upset by the misrepresentation of his motivations that he actually sent a message to the Washington Policy Center (remember her?): “Our business model is conducive to changing times and we would appreciate it if you didn’t Make assumptions about our business to further your political values. “
Next came Meeru Dhalwala, owner of Shanik and the third restaurant closing discussed in the original article.
In a Facebook post, Dhalwala wrote: “My closure is solely due to the location – nothing to do with wages.”
Eventually, the owner of the fourth restaurant reported by lifestyle magazine Grub, a place called Grub, wrote on her Facebook page that the restaurant had been “a great success” and that she had sold the restaurant to a buyer and that the location would shortly reopen under the new owners and under the name Bounty Kitchen.
One hundred percent of the restaurant owners who formed the basis for the minimum wage voices to shout that the minimum wage was destroying the Seattle dining scene called the narrative pure and utter nonsense.
Surely the author of the article that spawned original sin must have picked the wrong four restaurants for her piece on the dangers of Seattle restaurants in the age of higher minimum wages?
After all, we know that something has nothing to do with these four companies because Rush Limbaugh, Mr. Perry of AES, and many others tell us that Seattle has had a dining crisis – and it is the direct result of the minimum wage increase .
However, it turns out that the narrative is completely wrong when actual journalism is used to learn the truth.
The Seattle Times reports that in February 2014, before the Seattle City Council approved the $ 15 minimum wage, five restaurants in the area were closed. With just two restaurant closings in February 2015, one could easily conclude that Seattle’s dining business is damn healthy – especially when you consider that “27 new bars and restaurants opened on Capitol Hill in 2014 alone”.
Even Anthony Anton, president of the Washington Restaurant Association and a major lobby group who worked hard to stop the $ 15 an hour minimum wage, who first told Seattle Magazine, “Every operator I speak to is in Panic. trying to find out what the new world will look like, ”has calmed down considerably.
When reached by the Seattle Times, Anton commented on the minimum wage increase by saying, “There’s nothing to fear, it’s just something to be aware of. There will be changes, but we will make them and we will find out. “
“There will be restaurants in Seattle,” added Anton. “It’s just going to be different, and that’s fine.”
The bottom line here is that if your “thing” is to enjoy joining a panic that conveniently and conveniently reflects your particular ideology, then you have a ball. The voices providing this service are ready, ready, and eager to give you a bunch of nonsense that this tingling sensation – that comes with believing that you are right even when you are not – pulls your leg up.
However, if you are genuinely interested in whether or not the Seattle minimum wage rise will have a profound, insignificant, or nonexistent impact on the city’s restaurant industry over the next seven years, then you should wait for the increases to actually take effect for you to see that track legitimate empirical evidence.
I have no idea what the rise in workers’ salaries will mean for restaurant operations in this city. How could I? It has yet to happen.
Perhaps those who predict disaster are right and perhaps they are wrong. I don’t know yet, and neither do she.
What we do know is that the Experts of Doom jumped gun in the most dishonest way imaginable in order to tell this story.
It really doesn’t take much to check the actual facts – you know what the restaurant owners who are the basis of these supposed signs of minimum wage problems have to say.
It doesn’t take much research to check the number of restaurant closings in Seattle this year compared to previous years and see if there is any reason to wonder if the minimum wage increase is having a negative impact.
But why do the homework then when you can get so many viewers, readers, and listeners to repeat a lie?
Contact Rick at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. You can also see me every Saturday at 11:00 am on the radio program “Steele & Ungar” on SiriusXM POTUS Channel 124 and every Saturday at 6:00 pm on Newsmax TV on “The Daily Wrap”.