Capitol Hill Pizza Place That Closed Due to $15 Minimum Wage to Be Replaced by Better Pizza Place

Remember Z Pizza, the Capitol Hill restaurant whose owner said the store was closing due to Seattle’s increased minimum wage? Remember when Q13 Fox quoted owner Ritu Shah Burnham as saying she was “terrified for” her employees, that “I have no idea where they’re going to find jobs [once Z Pizza closes], because if I’m cutting hours, I imagine everyone is across the board?” Remember how conservative bloggers referred to Z Pizza’s closing as “a spate” of Seattle restaurant closures? Remember how they used the case of Z Pizza as a single data point that somehow predicted a trend of restaurant closures?

Ian's saves the day for pizza-lovers.

Ian’s saves the day for pizza-lovers.

Well! This morning, J Seattle at Capitol Hill Seattle Blog broke the news that a new tenant will be moving into Z Pizza’s space this fall. And guess what? It’s a pizza place. Ian’s Pizza on the Hill, the first Seattle outpost of a popular small Wisconsin pizza chain, will open in October. Ian’s co-owner Brandon Stottler told Capitol Hill Seattle that he’s all in favor of Seattle’s increased minimum wage.* “It feels more like the right thing to do to respect service workers and what they do,” Stottler told J Seattle. Capitol Hill Seattle also linked to a Badger Herald editorial about Ian’s excellent health care policy: “here is a case of a small business owner standing up and saying they already offer their employees full health coverage and have done so ever since they could afford it.” Sounds like the kind of business we want in Seattle.

And Ian’s isn’t the only pizzeria opening on Capitol Hill this fall. Capitol Hill Seattle lists five pizza places, including the first Seattle outpost of Portland’s Sizzle Pie restaurant, that are opening (or, in one case, reopening) in Z Pizza’s neighborhood over the next few months. Call me crazy, but I don’t think former Z Pizza employees will have a problem finding work.

In fact, Seattle Metropolitan magazine just published a story about Seattle’s chef shortage, using the nationally famous—yep, you guessed it—pizza place Delancey as its opening example:

When Brandon Pettit posted an opening for a cook at his pizzeria, Delancey, in Ballard, the sort of place where diners line up before doors open and the staff enjoys one another’s company enough to hang out during off hours, he got exactly one response. From someone who has never worked at a restaurant. Pettit hired her.

Seriously: does it look like the increased minimum wage is causing an employment crisis to you? If so, then consider this chart by Friend of Skunkworks Invictus, showing the number of restaurant permits in Seattle:

The fact is, minimum-wage naysayers don’t have a leg to stand on. Those scary early posts by lazy journalists and axe-grinding conservative bloggers were based on airy fictions and scare tactics. The reality is, Seattle’s restaurant scene is right now stronger than it’s ever been.

* Conservatives will make much of the fact that Ian’s will be considered a small business under the minimum wage law because it has fewer than 500 employees, and not a franchise as Z Pizza was. It’s true that Ian’s will have a longer schedule to reach the $15 minimum wage than Z Pizza would have had. But what strikes me as interesting about this particular conservative argument is that it’s accepting of the $15 minimum wage; detractors just want a longer timeframe to reach it.
Frankly, though, franchises should pay their employees more, because franchises are not as good for the local economy as small businesses are. A report by Civic Economics in 2012 (PDF) found that chains like Target and Home Depot “recirculate an average of 13.6% of all revenue within the local markets that host its stores,” while locally owned businesses return 52 percent. And local restaurants recirculate 78.6 percent of their revenue locally, while chains like McDonald’s only recirculate 30.4 percent. By paying their employees more at a faster rate, franchises are doing their part to help boost the local economy, thus paving the way for small businesses to raise their minimum wage.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.