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Employer says raising SeaTac minimum wage to $15 an hour would put him out of business

The owner of a Quiznos at Sea-Tac Airport says a wage increase to $15 an hour minimum would put him out of business. (AP Photo/file)

Dissatisfied workers’ voices have been heard as an initiative heads to the ballot to increase the minimum wage to $15 for hospitality and transportation workers in SeaTac, but what about the voices of business owners that will be forced to provide this wage increase?

Brett Habernicht owns a Quiznos restaurant on the B concourse at Sea-Tac Airport and tells KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show that he and his partner were floored when they heard the city council had sent the initiative to the November ballot.

“It was like it wasn’t even real,” says Habernicht. “The economics of this are so screwy. They’re so messed up. It’s easy to try and make sense out of something if there’s sense to be made out of it, but there is absolutely no sense to be made out of this whatsoever.”

Habernicht says business has been tough in the last few years. “We’ve been in a recession. A lot of people think, ‘Well you know, you’re in the airport, you’re in a little cocoon, you’re kind of shielded from all that.’ That’s not true. That is absolutely not true.”

The cost of conducting business at the airport is already “unbelievable,” he says. And this isn’t the first government intrusion that’s impacted his bottom line.

“One of the things that a lot of people don’t realize and they don’t understand is there was a street pricing initiative,” says Habernicht. “There’s a street pricing initiative that the Port of Seattle passed several years ago, which 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 explains that as a Quiznos franchise, he has to match the prices of other Quiznos franchises that operate outside of the airport, regardless of the increased fees he has to pay to do business there.

“That same Quiznos franchisee that’s out on the street that maybe pays $2,500 to $3,000 a month in rent, we have to charge the exact same that he does for a sandwich, but (…) last month, we spent $14,000 in rent on about a 1,750 square foot space.”

Habernicht says the profit margins for them are already really tight, and he and his partner risked everything to start this business.

“I’m not sitting on a great deal of wealth. I’m not one of those guys that can just throw my money here, throw my money there,” says Habernicht. “Every day, I get up early and we try and figure out how we’re going to make it work today.”

If the initiative is passed in November, Habernicht says that would be the end for them.

“The $15 an hour minimum wage would – I’ll tell you right now frankly, and I’m not exaggerating – it would put us out of business. It would absolutely put us out of business,” says Habernicht. “Once that happens, there’s loans that somehow need to be paid back. There’s personal guarantees on those loans that need to be paid back. And then nobody’s got a job.”

He says they won’t be the only ones that have to shut down.

“If this initiative passes, they are literally going to have to pay people to do business within the Port of Seattle at the airport because there is absolutely no way to make a profit.”

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