Bronx merchants and economic association leaders convened at historic Arthur Ave. Retail Market last month in efforts to advocate that tipping is what keeps the restaurant business alive, especially in the Bronx. As part of its on-going battle to protect New York State’s existing tip credit, The New York City Hospitality Alliance came to the Bronx to lend support to the local community’s efforts.
Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance explained the importance of the Bronx to the industry and its current focus. “The Bronx is home to incredible restaurants that have been around for years, and new ones are popping up,” noted Rigie. “The tip credit has helped keep menu prices down for diners and kept people in the borough employed. The Bronx is home to a lot of small family owned restaurants that rely on the savings from the tip credit to stay open.”
Governor Cuomo’s push to remove the tip credit at restaurants in New York state through regulations would seriously impact the survival of small ‘mom & pop’ owned eateries throughout the borough, according to the industry.
“The way that the government is going about this is not helping us – it’s hurting us,” said Regina Delfino, the manager of near 100-year-old Mario’s Restaurant, another staple of Arthur Ave. and a Bronx small business. “We can’t afford to pay those salaries, we can’t make the money that large corporations can pay. It’s not fair to us, our employees, and this will put us along with other ‘mom and pops’ right out of business,” she added.
The Alliance’s Rigie, also explained how restaurants, especially city based, will be driven out of business by eliminating the tip credit.
“If the governor eliminates the tip credit it will have a significant impact on the restaurant industry overall, small businesses are being challenged enough as it is and this will only worsen that problem,” Rigie said. “The fact is clear, restaurant owners are scared and they’re nervous,” he added.
The NYS Department of Labor recently held hearings on the state’s wage structure to explore the elimination of the tipped credit that affects workers in restaurants, car washes and nail salons. Opponents of Cuomo’s initiative to revamp the tipped credit wage believe it would push the service industries further towards automation, thus costing more jobs throughout both the borough and state.The Bronx has become a haven for lovers of Italian cuisine from the world over. The move to end tipping, it could mean the end of Arthur Ave. as they know it.
“All of our restaurants are ‘mom and pop’ stores, their success comes from the generosity of patrons tipping because of the excellent service,” said Frank Franz, executive director of the Belmont BID.
“A perfect example to look at is Europe where people don’t tip, you pay 52 Euros for a fried chicken and you get lousy service, when an American walks into a European restaurant servers flock around them because they know a good tip is coming. That’s the nature of the business, so government should run it’s businesses and let us run ours,” he concluded.
Bob Jaen, president of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association raised concern that eliminating the tip credit will set a dangerous precedent.
“Who’s next then? Cab drivers, bartenders, delivery people? The ones that want to enact this policy have never worked in a restaurant or the service industry so its very easy for them to get behind something like this,” Jaen said.
He went on to explain that restaurant wait staff who currently work 40-hours a week will likely be dropped down to 20 hours. Staffing cuts are almost guaranteed to be a result, he warned. Jaen called on all merchants associations and BIDs within the city to come together to show unanimous opposition to the plan to eliminate the tip credit.
“If you keep picking on the little guy sooner or later we’re going to revolt, we need to handle this now or we will be sorry later,” he exclaimed.