Denver restaurant owners say closures, layoffs possible during contentious minimum wage meeting

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DENVER -- Denver restaurant owners have a message to city officials: raising the minimum wage will have consequences.

Thursday, business owners gathered for a meeting with representatives of Mayor Michael Hancock to discuss the plan to raise the minimum wage in the city.

Currently, Denver's minimum wage is $11.10/hr. If Denver's plan goes through it will be $13.80 an hour in 2020 and $15.87 an hour in 2021.

Tipped employees would earn a base pay of $10.78 plus tips in 2020 and earn $12.85 plus tips in 2021.

Dan Frugman, the owner of Max Gill and Grille in Washington Park,  says the increase could force him to close down -- arguing what is the point of working 80 hour work weeks.

"If the increase in minimum wage goes up we are going to have to lay off employees we are going to have to be there more often - it's going to take away my time with my daughter which could potentially destroy my family," Frugman said.

Frugman's big argument is involving tipped employees, like servers and bartenders. State law requires tipped wages be no less than $3.02 below the state minimum wage.

"They'd be making more than anyone in the restaurant including myself as the owner," Frugman said.

Other business owners, like Mark Berzins of the Little Pub Company, said it makes him wonder about installing kiosks in bars.

"I was very disappointed not to see city council here," Berzins said. "Every person in that room is thinking how can I have customers order on the tablet."

As for whether the city is open to amending their proposal -- time will tell. Hancock's Deputy Chief of Staff Evan Dreyer attended the meeting on behalf of the mayor.

"People feel passionately about their businesses," Dreyer said. "Right now the proposal is for Jan. 1 implementation. We are listening to everybody and some of the feedback we are hearing is to delay it beyond January."

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