In early returns, voters appear to be approving SeaTac’s Prop. 1 to increase minimum wage to $15 per hour for certain hotels, rental car, shuttle, and other airport related businesses. But at least one small business owner says there’s no way he can stay in business with this new requirement.
Brett Habernicht, who owns a Quiznos restaurant on the B concourse at Sea-Tac Airport, says a $15 minimum wage, combined with other requirements already imposed by the Port of Seattle, could mean the end of some small businesses.
In a previous interview, Habernicht explained to Dori that the Port already imposes a street-pricing requirement.
“(It) basically requires everybody in the Port as a food vendor, you have to match the same pricing that’s out there on the street,” he said.
That also doesn’t factor in the higher rent that a business has to pay to operate at the airport. Habernicht tells Dori while another Quizno’s franchisee in a strip mall might pay a couple thousand in rent, they pay anywhere from $9,000 to $12,000 a month to operate at the airport. The Port requires they charge the same for a sandwich as the guy paying only $2,000 in rent.
“There’s definitely going to have to be some concessions made from the Port of Seattle with regards to a couple of their policies if any small businesses are going to have any chance of surviving,” Habernicht says, a day after learning the $15 minimum wage proposition was ahead in early returns.
“We all kind of woke up this morning and realized it’s the dawn of a new era. The thing that’s frightening is at $15 an hour, there is just absolutely no way with the margins we have in that type of business that we could even hope to survive, unless the Port immediately relaxes the street-pricing condition.”
Dori says it’s frustrating when voters with no skin in the game get to dictate things like wages and prices for a business.
“They’re just saying we want some people to give other people more money, and it’s like voters think it just magically appears out of nowhere,” says Dori.
“The other factor here is how much is a sandwich maker worth?” Dori asks.
Habernicht says they have great people working for them, but they know the type of job they offer is just a stepping stone to a better opportunity.
“You’re going to come in, you’re going to learn a skill, you’re going to learn some great customer service skills. It’s a stepping stone to your next better job. ”
While some larger-scale businesses might be able to adapt to the new costs associated with an increase in the minimum wage, smaller businesses might not survive, says Habernicht.
“The only people that can make this work are companies that have huge economies of scale, that basically is not the small business owner.”