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No, the minimum wage isn't forcing these Seattle restaurants to close

Anti-minimum wage conservatives are in full gloat over a recent report in a Seattle magazine that lots of Seattle restaurants have closed lately or are due to close in the next weeks or months.

The conservatives gleefully associate this phenomenon with the coming increase in the city's minimum wage, which kicks in April 1 with a rise to $11 an hour from $9.32. (Employers whose workers earn tips get a break--they can pay $10 if the workers make up at least another dollar from their tips.) The wage hike builds over time; for employers with fewer than 500 workers, which would probably cover every full-service Seattle restaurant, the ultimate increase to $16.49--or $15 for tip earners--doesn't happen until 2021. 

David Watkins of the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog points out that the minimum wage opponents are declaring "We told you so" way too soon. In fact, the article that inspired the gloating doesn't ascribe any of the closings to the minimum wage increase and, indeed, points to different reasons in every case. As for the idea that Seattle restaurants are "closing in record number" (sic), as the Tea Party News Network proclaims, it's just not so.

Here's the rundown. Of the seven restaurants specifically mentioned in Seattle Magazine's March 4 post, one was reported by its owner to be located in the wrong neighborhood for its particular mix of bar space and atmosphere. Another is being offloaded by an owner who has three other restaurants in the city and is opening two more. (A neighboring restaurant is expanding into its space.) A third turned out to be too big for the clientele at its location. Three aren't closing at all, but are getting new chefs because their old boss is moving to Spain to join his partner.

How many owners cited the minimum wage as a factor in their actions? None.

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