State lawmakers want to give servers a raise. Why are so many saying ‘no thanks?’

A new bill would ban “tipped wages” and require restaurants to pay all workers the state minimum wage, which is currently $14 per hour and jumps to $15 this summer.

John Craven

Mar 21, 2023, 9:53 PM

Updated 430 days ago

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Connecticut lawmakers advanced a bill to give bartenders and restaurant servers a raise Tuesday, but could it actually cost them money instead?
Right now, most restaurant workers receive a base salary supplemented by gratuities. For servers, the “tipped wage” is $6.38 per hour. Bartenders’ base is slightly more at $8.23.
A new bill would ban “tipped wages” and require restaurants to pay all workers the state minimum wage, which is currently $14 per hour and jumps to $15 this summer. The legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee advanced the bill along party lines to the full General Assembly, where it has failed several times before.
Republicans argued the change could put family-owned restaurants out of business, while Democrats said better pay will address a severe shortage of servers.
As for wait staff, some are worried about losing money. Thanks to tips, the average server brings home $33 an hour, according to the Connecticut Restaurant Association. But if they get a raise, customers might get stingy.
“If they hear that law goes out, you'd be amazed how many people stop tipping," said Antoneos Kalmanidis, the head chef at Silver Star Diner in Norwalk. “I was a waiter for years. When I was working four days a week, I was making $900 a week, plus my pay."
But one national expert recently told lawmakers that hasn’t happened in other states that dropped “tipped wages.”
“These seven states have higher restaurant sales per capita, higher job growth in the restaurant industry, higher small business growth rates,” said Saru Jayaraman, a Yale Law School graduate who now heads the One Fair Wage Coalition. “The chains grow faster in these seven states. We have higher rates of tipping in these seven states.”
Even though a raise would cost him more, Silver Star Diner owner Alexandros Savvidis said he would gladly pay it.
“They're happy, we're happy, and everybody be happy,” he said.
In Connecticut, servers are already guaranteed to make minimum wage. If tips don't get them to $14 an hour, their restaurant is supposed to make up the difference – although critics say that doesn’t always happen.


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