The Tap: Tone Policing the Wage Debate

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This week in the Tap: A look ahead at upcoming restaurants, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.

The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Mayor Hodges Stepped Over the Line in Tip Credit Debate

Reasonable people can and do disagree about the minimum wage. Income inequality has been linked to a host of broader problems, but the degree to which a higher mandated wage (and how much higher?) will fix inequality is fair game for debate. Reasonable people can disagree, too, as to what extent (if any) tips for restaurant servers should be counted against a minimum wage (the so-called tip credit, or tip penalty, depending upon your political outlook).

In a recent post addressing the question, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges came out against the tip credit and advocated a $15-an-hour wage plus tips for servers, putting herself in opposition to many local restaurant owners. Again, you can argue this point from either end of the spectrum and make a fair case.

What rankled many in the food community is that Hodges rested her case in part on a couple of provocative assertions: one, that those in favor of a tip credit are exposing women to sexual harassment, and two, that those in favor of a tip credit are the modern-day heirs of Americans who sought to keep emancipated slaves in subservient poverty.

Restaurateurs are quite reasonably furious about this line of argument (Stephanie March summed up and amplified this sense of irritation quite well in a recent post). For me, these tactics directly recall the kind of bomb-throwing rhetoric that undergrad student-council members at my alma mater (University of Wisconsin-Madison) sometimes engaged in. In short: If you disagree with my stance on Issue X, you are (choose one or more) a racist, a sexist, an imperialist, a slave trader, and so forth. It’s resorting to demonization in order to win what should be a fact-based argument.

And it assumes that your constituents are arguing in bad faith — in this case, that they’re shoving hardworking people into the muck to protect their own wealth, rather than, for example, trying to keep volatile businesses afloat amid often razor-thin margins.

An apology from the mayor to restaurateurs would be a welcome sign of good faith and a prudent way to start rebuilding relationships with a business community that provides incalculable vitality (and thousands of jobs) to Minneapolis. An apology doesn’t have to include backing down from her policy position, but it should come from a place of empathy for people working hard in a fast-paced and sometimes brutal part of the economy. — James Norton

NOW OPEN

  • Randle’s, 921 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis | Rooftop bar, Asian fusion, steaks.
  • Hennepin Steam Room,  116 1st Ave N, Minneapolis | Reboot of the closed Tangiers concept by the same owners.
  • Bottle Rocket, 1806 St. Clair Ave, St. Paul  | A reboot by the Blue Plate Restaurant Company of the former Scusi space with craft cocktails.
  • The Lexington, 1096 Grand Ave, St. Paul | After a years-long odyssey, the newest incarnation of the Lexington has arrived.
  • Ziat & Za’atar, 1626 Selby Avenue, St. Paul
  • Mercado by Earl Giles, 2904 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | Jester Concepts taqueria, coffee shop, and cocktail spot.
  • Utepils (formerly Bryn Mawr) Brewing, 225 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis | Large-scale (about 60 percent of Surly’s capacity) new brewery.
  • Byte, 319 1st Ave N, Minneapolis | With a Geek Bar, of course plus a casual menu and baked goods from Patisserie 46.
  • Bad Waitress (second location), 700 Central Ave NE
Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

  • Can Can Wonderland, 755 Prior Ave N, St. Paul | Artist-designed mini-golf with beer, noshes, and Bittercube cocktails.
  • Jun, 730 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis | Szechuan gone upscale in the North Loop.
  • Pad Ga Pow, 811 LaSalle Ave Suite 207, Minneapolis | Skyway Thai from the daughter and son-in-law of the owner of the lovely On’s Thai on University Avenue in St. Paul.
  • Tiffin Man, 1415 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis 
  • Come Pho Soup, Medical Arts Building, 823½ Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
  • Station Pizzeria, 13008 Minnetonka Blvd, Minnetonka | A former Bar La Grassa chef does upscale pizza.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Pajarito, 605 W 7th St, St. Paul | Via Dara: Opened by Tim McKee acolytes “Tyge Nelson and Stephan Hesse, most recently of Chino Latino and Libertine, respectively.” Receiving early accolades. Here’s our review.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Revival, 525 Selby Ave, St. Paul (former Cheeky Monkey space) | A second location for the popular fried chicken spinoff of Corner Table. The original location will also be expanding and offering takeout. Our review of the new location is here.

CLOSED / CLOSING:

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

  • The Strip Club Meat and Fish (Closing July 1).
  • Bearcat (the rebranded version of Third Bird)
  • Mozza Mia
  • Ox Cart Ale House (rebooting with new concept).
  • Evergreen (closing in June)
  • Sunrise Inn (the venerable 3.2 bar will reopen as Bull’s Horn Food and Drink under the aegis of Doug Flicker).
  • Marin (the Le Meridien Chambers hotel restaurant is rebooting as Mercy, more accessible / affordable).
  • Grand Cafe (reopening with a new concept and new ownership).
  • Game — the short-lived spot that followed the short-lived Salsa a la Salsa and Boneyard — will be replaced by Lotus.

COMING UP:

Minneapolis

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

  • Five Watt (Roastery and Cafe), 2904 Harriet Ave S, Minneapolis | 2017 | Former Uptown Imports location.
  • Mrs. Dumpling, 700 W Lake St, Minneapolis | Early 2017 | Not to be confused with Dumpling in Longfellow.
  • Geno’s, 12 4th St SE, Minneapolis | Soon | Italian sandwich shop from the owners of Lyndale Tap House.
  • Popol Vuh and Central | Fall | A two-restaurants-in-one (ala Birdie and Nighthawks) high concept / street food with a Mexican emphasis from the team behind the successful Lyn65 in Richfield.
  • Burrigato, 314 15th Ave SE, Minneapolis | April | The sushi + burrito trend kicked off by SotaRol refuses to die.
  • The Cove, 1320 5th St SE, Minneapolis | Soon | Can poke succeed where crudo failed? Let’s find out.
  • Cardigan Donuts, 70 S 7th St, Minneapolis | May | More action within the “fancy doughnut” sphere.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

St. Paul

Nick Fay / Heavy Table

Nick Fay / Heavy Table

  • Barrel Theory Beer Company, 248 E 7th St, St. Paul | 2017 | As per the Growler: “A partnership between Surly Brewing Company’s former director of technology Brett Splinter, former Surly brewer Timmy Johnson, and CPA Todd Tibesar.” Our preview is here.
  • Bar Brigade, 470 Cleveland Ave S, St. Paul | Spring | French-inspired bar from J.D. Fratzke (Strip Club Meat and Fish) and Matty O’Reilly (Republic) opening in the old Ristorante Luci space.
  • Rah’Mn, 300 Snelling Ave S, St. Paul | March 20 | A new Chipotle-style build-your-0wn ramen restaurant by Tryg Truelson, formerly of Tryg’s.
  • Brunson’s Pub, 956 Payne Ave, St Paul | Second week of March “if all goes well.”
  • Baja Haus, 830 E Lake St, Wayzata | Soon | A second restaurant by Billy Tserenbat of Sushi Fix, focused on Mexican seafood and scratch margaritas.
  • 12welve Eyes Brewing, 141 E 4th St, St. Paul | Summer | Opening in the Pioneer Endicott Building.
  • Black Stack Brewing, 755 Prior Ave N, St. Paul | February | Sharing a complex with Can Can Wonderland.
  • J Selby’s, 169 Victoria St N, St. Paul | March | Vegan restaurant that prefers to call itself “plant-based.”
  • Keg and Case revitalization of the Schmidt Brewery, 928 W 7th St, St. Paul | Summer 2017 | Featuring restaurants by the teams behind Corner Table, Hola Arepa, and Five Watt, plus Sweet Science ice cream.
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

  • 11 Wells, Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm’s Brewery, St. Paul | Postponed to “at least 2018” | Multi-state distribution is keeping them busy.

Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond

  • Copperwing Distillery, 6409 Cambridge St, St. Louis Park | March 11
  • Star Keller Brewing Company, 2215 N Garden St, New Ulm, MN | March 3 | A new August Schell’s-owned taproom focused on sour Berliner-style Weisse beers.
  • Deconstructed, 705 Century Ave N, Suite B, Maplewood | Soon | A new pasta and pho spot by the owner of :D-Spot.
  • Bellecour, 739 E Lake Street, Wayzata (former Blue Point Location) | Spring 2017 | A second restaurant for the much-heralded chef owner of Spoon and Stable. This one will be French-brasserie style as per Rick Nelson.
  • Oakhold Farmhouse Brewery (formerly Oude Oak) Midway Township | 2017 | Construction on this new sour beer-only brewery just south of Duluth is under way.

The Tap is the Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled and published biweekly by the Heavy Table. If you have tips for The Tap, please email James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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4 Comments

  1. Patrick 03/02/2017 Reply

    The Mayor didn’t make either of the assertions you suggest. She simply pointed out that tipping in America is rooted in some disgraceful history and that people in the service industry who rely on tips are vulnerable to harassment that often forces them to choose between not confronting it and potentially missing their rent.

    This definitely seems like an economic issue for restaurateurs who have chosen the Mayor as a convenient enemy. The Mayor wants a reasonable minimum wage (that a few places have already implemented with great success) and to not carve out a new exemption for tips (remember: we don’t have a tip credit/penalty now, and amazingly enough we have restaurants this side of the St. Croix). She’s also the Mayor of all in the city and not just the Mayor of restaurant culture, so she’s looking at a bigger picture for the electorate that picked her to lead.

    Here’s one part of the Mayor’s post that I haven’t seen contested, and it’s a fact that should give us all pause: “Only 10 percent of restaurant servers in our region averaged $15 or more an hour with tips.” Most servers are living in poverty, and restaurant owners don’t seem to view this as the crisis it is. Perhaps they’re fine with business as usual, but thankfully the Mayor is not.

  2. Was what the mayor said factually incorrect? She appears to have the evidence backing up her assertions, at which point refusing to engage with the substance of what she has said is just hiding from those facts. She is not accusing individual restaurant owners of personally promoting sexism, harassment or slavery; she is pointing out that tipping is rooted in systemic inequalities that present today regardless of individual good intention. And that is a valid issue to engage with, one that requires empathy from restaurant owners as much as tipped employees, who are the most vulnerable people in this debate. Tone policing is the worst kind of debate derailment, and the fact that this site is engaging in it is incredibly disappointing.

  3. Lindsay 03/03/2017 Reply

    I think you’re taking a logical shortcut that jumps from identifying the facts of the historical background of tipping and the economic impact of sexual harassment on serves to “if you don’t agree with me, you’re a racist or sexist.” These are fact-based arguments, and to ground them in the realities of race, gender and class isn’t resorting to tone policing. It’s recognizing the way race, gender and class intersect and interact.

    And yes, servers are at risk of sexual harassment regardless of their pay structure. Everyone, largely women, is at risk of sexual harassment just for walking out the door. But let’s not use a faulty pay structure when we could be addressing the structural conditions that create the environment for harassment in the first place.

  4. Kevin Horner 03/05/2017 Reply

    The apology needs to come from restaranteurs who insist on paying a non-living wage to their employees.

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