Conservatives Who Need to Prove a False Point About the Minimum Wage Refer to One Closing Restaurant as a “Spate”

Shorter New York Post: Pizza, pizza everywhere! (But let's pretend there's a crisis anyway.)

Shorter New York Post: Pizza, pizza everywhere! (But let’s pretend there’s a crisis anyway.)

You’re probably sick of hearing about Z Pizza. Hell, I’m sick of writing about Z Pizza. But at the time of this writing, Z Pizza is the only business in Seattle to claim it’s closing thanks to Seattle’s increased minimum wage, and that makes Z Pizza the poster child for the anti-$15 movement.

This weekend, a few writers used Z Pizza as an example of a rash of restaurant closures in Seattle. Why didn’t they use any other examples? Because Z Pizza is, as I’ve mentioned above, the only restaurant claiming to close due to the minimum wage increase.

In a post on her blog, conservative talking head Katie Kieffer cites a Forbes report that Seattle restaurants “are closing at higher than normal rates,” and then she uses that report to claim that the minimum wage should be eliminated entirely. That Forbes report is by anti-$15 hack Tim Worstall, who cites a sloppy Seattle magazine story that has long since been debunked by the Seattle Times. In other words, it’s based on nothing at all.

In fact, Kieffer’s post is so mind-bendingly dumb that I could spend all afternoon poking at all its illogical leaps and inane assumptions. Thankfully, Linda Tirado has already fisked Kieffer’s post, to hilarious effect. Suffice it to say, a $0 minimum wage—a.k.a. slavery—is not a convincing response to the $15 minimum wage.

In an anti-$15 editorial published yesterday, the New York Post claimed that “a similar hike in Seattle’s minimum wage was leading to a spate of local restaurant closings.” Their only source for that “spate?” The aforementioned (debunked) Seattle magazine story.

Really? A “spate?” One Z Pizza franchise is a “spate,” now? Because when I Googled the definition of “spate,” I was told that it meant “a large number of similar things or events appearing or occurring in quick succession.”

Look, I understand other restaurants are going to close in Seattle, because opening a restaurant is risky. And I guarantee that the lure of the spotlight is going to inspire some restaurateurs to claim the increased minimum wage is the cause of those closures, and when that happens, conservative outlets are going to descend like sharks on putrid meat.

But restaurants close all the time. I don’t see anyone publishing stories claiming that Nebraska’s $2.13 tipped-employee minimum wage is responsible for the closure of Lincoln’s Heidelberg’s South location, or the tragic loss of Big Vinny’s Take and Bake Pizza, or the Sasquatch Cafe. All of these restaurants closed in Lincoln this year, proving that even a rock-bottom minimum wage can’t guarantee a business’s success.

What we’re seeing on the right is a panicked attempt to ring alarm bells. But the data in Seattle simply don’t back up those claims. There is no “spate” here. There’s one outlier. And last week, five new restaurants applied for business licenses in Seattle. That’s a fact.

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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.