Coffee shop raises prices 50 percent to pay employees $50K

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DENVER (KDVR) — Elle Jensen doesn’t think customers should decide the worth of her baristas.

The owner of Amethyst Coffee eliminated tipping at her three locations and raised prices by 50 percent in May to pay her employees what she’s calling “a living wage.”

“We raised prices so we can pay our staff better, and that is it,” Amethyst co-owner Elle Taylor said.

Amethyst Coffee’s three operating locations are at 1111 Broadway in the Golden Triangle, in Berkeley at 4999 W. 44th Ave., and in Edgewater at food hall Edgewater Public Market. A fourth location, inside the event space Realm at 3851 Steele St. in Clayton, remains closed in the wake of the pandemic.

“Sometimes as a hospitality worker it’s really hard to pay your rent, it’s hard to have a place to sleep, it’s hard to be able to afford food, so we want to try and illuminate some of those variables,” Taylor said.

A to-go cup of black coffee at Amethyst is now $4.50 before tax, compared to $3.25 previously. A latte that was previously $4.50 is now $6.75.

For comparison, the same 12 oz. black coffee runs about $2.20 before tax at local Starbucks locations. Aviano Coffee in Cherry Creek, which caters to a well-heeled crowd, charges $4.

The flip side of those numbers? Prior to the pandemic, Jensen’s staff of 17 was making $12 to $13 an hour plus a weekly average of $250 to $300 in tips, she said. An average tip was 75 cents.

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