Saru Jayaraman, Fekkak Mamdough, ROC United Leadership & Members: Is ONE FAIR WAGE really FAIR for All? Tipped Minimum Wage-Part 1

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 5/3/2018

It’s complicated.

On Sunday, April 22, 2018, I sent the email below to ROC (Restaurant Opportunities Center) United leadership.

The next day, on Monday, April 23, 2018, I received an email confirming receipt from Sekou Siby, executive director ROC United, indicating that someone on the ROC team would respond. People copied on Mr. Siby’s email included:

Saru Jayaraman, co-founder ROC United (saru@rocunited.org)

Fekkak Mamdough, co-founder ROC United (Mamdough@rocunited.org),

Teofilo Reyes, Research Director ROC United (teo@rocunited.org)

Jennifer Prescott, postion w/ROC United not listed on website (jennifer.p@rocunited.org)

My email with responses received from Fekkak Mamdough  from ROC United on 4/29/18 are noted after each question:

T0:  Saru Jayaraman, Fekkak Mamdough, Sekou Siby

CC: Yamila Ruiz, Legal Organizer ROC United (yamila@rocunited.org)

Subject: Opportunity to Respond to Patrick Maguire for Server Not Servant blog post on Tipped Minimum Wage

Hello, Saru, Fekkak, and Sekou-

My name is Patrick Maguire. I write a blog titled, I’m Your Server Not Your Servant advocating for service industry workers. I’m working on a blog post about the impact of gradually increasing, and ultimately eliminating, the tipped minimum wage as you are proposing, “Through the ONE FAIR WAGE campaign, ROC United is fighting nationally to eliminate the two-tiered wage system by raising the separate, lower minimum wage for those who work for tips in the restaurant industry to match the regular minimum wage, so that no one has to experience the financial insecurity, discrimination, and sexual harassment that comes with being forced to live off tips.”

I would appreciate it if ROC United leadership would consider reading and responding to the following items for inclusion in my blog post scheduled for release the week of May 1:

I live in Massachusetts, and the pending MA minimum wage legislation (House 2365 & Senate 1004) is what initially sparked my interest in this topic. Many restaurateurs and servers are understandably concerned about the impact of the legislation on their livelihoods. In addition to reading everything I can, I’m gathering information and perspective from several sources to present a thorough, balanced, and fair assessment regarding the proposed MA legislation and related issues. Two of the major issues that I will be addressing are the scenarios where servers in full service restaurants would take a pay cut, and the threat to the survival of independent, full service restaurants.

Theoretically, philosophically, and morally there is rationale to support why the idea of eliminating tipping makes sense. However, the practical implications of imposing an experimental ‘solution’ on a culture unwilling to embrace the change will adversely impact the earnings of many servers, and simultaneously threaten the survival of independent, ‘Mom and Pop’ restaurants. For those reasons, I am going to propose in my blog post that tipped minimum wages remain, and are set as a percentage of rising full minimum wage amounts. Further, I believe that the simplistic sounding, ONE FAIR WAGE ‘solution’ to the ‘living wage’ problem is far more complicated than ROC United and others make it sound. One size does not fit all. Legislation that might increase the pay for servers averaging $9/hr at a rural, national chain in the Midwest could simultaneously and significantly reduce the earnings of servers working at independent, full service restaurants in American cities where servers are earning a lot more than even ‘full’ minimum wage. I believe that we need to encourage local legislators to be more creative rather than imposing rigid, cookie cutter ‘solutions’ that just don’t work. I’d like to see ROC, NRA, RWA, RAISE Up (and other advocacy groups) consider a framework/compromise that is in the best interest of the diverse group of local workers, restaurants, and the customers they serve. We need more tiered solutions based on revenue, # of stores, # of employees, benefits provided, type of service, geography, median income, etc. I will encourage that creative collaboration in my blog post.

Considerations for Question #1:

Leslie Stahl interview with Sara Jayaraman on 60 Minutes Overtime on 4/15/18:

Leslie Stahl: “Jayaraman helped NY restaurateur, Danny Meyer come up with his policy of eliminating tipping entirely, building the cost of service into the bill and into every employee’s pay, but she says the real answer is eliminating the sub-minimum [tipped minimum] entirely.”

Saru Jayaraman: “The solution is so concrete and tangible. Pay these women an actual wage just like kitchen staff, just like every other industry. Let tips be on top of that as they were always intended to be. And let them actually not have to put up with anything and everything from a customer.”

[End of interview excerpts.]

Saru, I realize that your position on tipping may still be evolving, and that some of your quotes have been taken out of context. I also realize that you are most likely well aware of the initial failures of the Danny Meyer “Tipping Included” experiment. On 10/19/17, I posted the following message in my Server Not Servant Facebook Group with this piece from Grub Street attached:

On October 14, 2015 I posted in this group that “This (Danny Meyer’s implementation of a no-tipping business model) will significantly advance a movement that has been slowly gaining momentum the last few years.” My supposition was wrong. Two years after the initial announcement, Danny Meyer’s ‘Hospitality Included’ (no tipping) experiment is in peril. Excellent update from Keenan Steiner for Grub Street. I strongly recommend reading the entire piece, but here are a few excerpts: #1-”After Hospitality Included was introduced at Maialino in 2016, the entire front-of-house staff turned over twice with the exception of a few people. At North End Grill, a significant group of workers from both the front-of-house and back-of-house quit. At Gramercy Tavern, though many veteran servers have stayed, a good number recently decided that they couldn’t bear the pay cut anymore and that the situation was not going to improve.” #2-“We were very ambitious with our timeline,” Moran (Union Square Hospitality Group’s Chief Culture Officer) explains, “and we learned very quickly that this is much more challenging than we had anticipated.” And yes, it is noteworthy that Keenan (reporter) is a former USHG server.

3/13/14 Cal Alumni Association: In fact, she [Saru] says the bickering over raising the minimum wage is almost beside the point. “Ultimately, this system of tipping needs to go,” she says. “I can see a day when restaurant workers are paid like salaried professionals, make a livable wage for the region where they reside, and tips are a luxury on top of that. It’s our moment to set things in motion to make that happen in the years to come.”

#1- Given the above, what is the current ROC United position on the social contract, the custom of tipping in America?

Fekkak Mamdough:  ROC supports One Fair Wage, which means better wages and better tips.[1] The seven states that have One Fair Wage – which means that restaurant owners pay their workers the full minimum wage and that tips are on top of the wage – have higher restaurant sales per capita, higher job growth among servers and other restaurant workers, and the same or higher rates of tipping.[2],[3],[4] All seven states have the same or higher tipping averages as the 43 states with lower wages for tipped workers.[5] According to PayScale, servers in San Francisco, California, with the highest wage in the country at $14 per hour, earn median hourly tips of $11.90, compared to $9.50 in NYC, and $8.50 in Washington, D.C.[6] That’s because customers do not tip based on how much the server earns in wages – most customers have no idea how much the server earns in wages.

ROC has been the leading voice defending workers’ tips as their own. In fall of 2017, the National Restaurant Association (NRA), which represents the Fortune 500 restaurant chains, pushed President Trump to propose a rule that would make tips the property of owners rather than workers.[7] The NRA has been lobbying to keep its workers tips for managers and owners for many decades. ROC led the fight against the NRA and this troubling rule, mobilizing 400,000 workers, employers and consumers to protect workers’ tips as their own. ROC won the battle against the NRA’s proposal to keep their workers’ tips, achieving a bipartisan Congressional bill in April that declares that tips should remain the property of workers now and forever.[8]

Patrick Maguire response: Fekkak, thank you for responding to my questions in a timely manner. I asked question #1 because it appears that the ROC position on tipping has evolved over the years, from denouncing the notion of the practice entirely, to now embracing tipping in addition to servers receiving full minimum wage. Is that because of the evidence that several ‘no tipping’ or ‘hospitality included’ (Danny Meyer-USHG) experiments are failing in America? In addition, you didn’t answer my original question:

Given the above, what is the current ROC United position on the social contract, the custom of tipping in America?

Wendyll Caisse-Treasurer and co-founder (RWA) Restaurant Workers of America response to Fekkak Mamdough #1:

RWA listens to real servers and bartenders across the country and we are looking at real people and businesses instead of misleading statistics. We assist independent restaurant operators with wage escalation proformas, so that they can see what’s coming with Saru’s experiments. Servers average over $30 an hour and bartenders $40 an hour. Our mission is to save lucrative tipped jobs that do not require a college degree, and preserve the full service dining experience as an option for all, not just the Hollywood elite or those with similar bank accounts.

On ROC’s website they list 200 restaurant member,s not 500. The 21,000 restaurant workers in NY, in addition to the 5000 in Maine, and not even counting our friends in Minneapolis, Seattle, D.C. and beyond – we outnumber ROC to a staggering degree. We talk about the math and we talk about the potential job losses and our voices are not paid to testify, unlike ROC. Saru and ROC supports unions, and it’s a symbiotic relationship as outlined in this 5/25/17 piece by Capital Research Center. From the piece:

Summary: ”It began on the fringes of union activism. In just a few years, the campaign for a $15 an hour federal minimum wage—armed with the slogan “Fight for $15!”—has gone mainstream. And should this union-driven movement succeed, the result could be a lot of frustrated job seekers and shuttered businesses.”

Saru wants to eliminate tips: NYT Opinion 10/15/2015-Why Tipping Is Wrong by Saru Jayaraman

We at RWA believe that tips have normally been the property of the interfacing FOH staff–RWA does not have a board position on this rule. However, we would like to see some definitions of positions put into this language, as a ‘Shift Leader’ has not been defined by the DOL, and this is a pivotal position in transition to management, but should be a tipped position.

We believe the tipped model works, and our owners and tipped employees are allies in this position. We take offense at ROC saying we’re slaves that are helpless and abused. We are a STRONG restaurant family that will fight for keeping tips as part of the equation to ensure that our workers continue to make well above minimum wage and we save the experience of dining. Our customers enjoy tipping and it benefits servers.

#2- Saru, I don’t recall reading anywhere that you have ever worked as a tipped server. Have you?

Fekkak Mamdough:  Saru has not, but I have worked as a tipped worker – delivery person, busser, and server – for more than 20 years. I have worked as a server in particular for over 17 of those 20 years. All of my fellow server colleagues from Windows on the World and the restaurants I’ve worked in support One Fair Wage. I am the co-founder of ROC United and co-lead the One Fair Wage campaign.

Wendyll Caisse (RWA) response to Fekkak:

Saru Jayaraman is a Labor Attorney with an agenda to unionize those who are not asking for it.

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Considerations for #3:

From the One Fair Wage link via (ROC) United website, “It’s time to do more than raise the tipped minimum wage. Through our ONE FAIR WAGE campaign, we will be advancing campaigns across the country to pass legislation in cities and states that will require the restaurant industry to pay all its employees at least the regular minimum wage.”

One Fair Wage allows those who work in the industry to receive a fair base wage & their tips on top. We must make clear that One Fair Wage allows those who work in the industry to increase their overall income because tipping will still be allowed.” -(ROC) United website.

According to Andrew Farnitano of Raise Up MA, “ROC United has been a great partner of Raise Up MA on our campaign to raise the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers. We’ve relied on their expertise, research, and worker organizing throughout our campaign.” If the MA legislature does not address the tipped minimum wage issue to the satisfaction of Raise Up MA, they (RU MA) will move forward with a ballot initiative that incrementally raises the tipped minimum wage as follows:

1/1/19 $5.05

1/1/20 $6.35

1/1/21 $7.64

1/1/22 $9.00

1/1/23 Tied to CPI

Those numbers are significantly less than the proposed MA Legislation that incrementally raises the tipped minimum wage in MA from $6.75 on 1/1/19 to $15.75 on 1/1/25.

#3- What is the official ROC United position on the pending MA Legislation? Do you support the Legislation as proposed, or the more moderate Raise Up MA ballot numbers?

Fekkak Mamdough:  ROC supports One Fair Wage – the full minimum wage for tipped workers, with tips on top. As mentioned above, the seven states that have One Fair Wage have higher restaurant sales per capita, higher job growth in the restaurant industry, and the same or higher rates of tipping as Massachusetts.[9]

Wendyll Caisse (RWA) response to Fekkak:

The restaurant industry normally has a 30% labor cost (with a tip credit model) – retail has 11%. To put forth ROC’s version of this measure that not only raises the minimum wage but eliminates the tip credit is an experiment that has never been done before. Full service restaurants will have a 400% cost increase in their server pay line item, to most operators, this is simply not feasible without making drastic labor cuts or automating. ROC has not done the math. We can make changes as owners, but it will be at the detriment of our staff. Changing from a full service model to counter service for example, would allow an operator to cut their FOH staff by 75%. Additionally, some urban, high end operators may succeed with a 40% menu price increase – but there is no financial evidence that this model is sustainable for independent, mid-priced restaurants. RWA has put forth an escalation model, that doesn’t even speak to PEOD (Price Elasticity of Demand) in menu price increases, it is beyond irresponsible that a national, well-funded organization like ROC, with $9.8 million in total revenue in 2016, can’t give a financial model of a 400% increase in the tipped wage in Massachussets from $3.75 to $15 that they are promoting. The following RWA financial forecast is based on RaiseUp MA’s proposed ballot numbers with a small tip credit ($6) and tipped minimum wage of $9/hour. ROC’s proposed $15/hr minimum wage (and NO tip credit) would have an even more devastating impact.

Screenshot_20180501-172322

This model doesn’t ever consider an increase in rent. Restaurant owners want to know how they can operate – WHILE KEEPING THEIR STAFF – when labor costs increase from 30% to 49% when you only have 5% profit?!?

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Considerations for #4:

After the Maine legislature failed to act, in a ballot question in November of 2016, voters elected to eliminate the tip credit by 2024, bringing both the tipped minimum wage and regular minimum wage to $12/hour. After a period of confusion, restaurant servers, cooks, staff, and owners, along with vendors and other tertiary businesses, joined together in a grassroots campaign to reinstate the tip credit. After gaining momentum on social media, holding meetings and rallies, and appealing and presenting their case to state legislators, the campaign was successful. I have reviewed several of the documents used in the campaign, media accounts, and communicated with servers and restaurant owners. Some of the items they used in their argument included:

  • Server tips and take home pay was lower because some customers were confused about the implications of the new minimum wage laws. There was a perception that customers didn’t need to tip, or could tip less because servers were now making much more money.
  • Eliminating the tipped minimum wage by 2024 would result in a further decrease in net income to servers.
  • The public was not ready to adopt a “tipping included” cultural shift.
  • Serving is a “real job” that many folks choose and enjoy for a variety of reasons that work for them.
  • ROC and other out of state lobbyists had no business imposing their agenda on the people of Maine who disagreed with the threat to their livelihoods in full service restaurants. And the lobbyists weren’t using realistic, sustainable, business models to make their case.
  • Restaurants with normal debt service would face significant financial challenges to stay open. A full service restaurant cannot survive a 320% server labor cost increase from $3.75 in 2016 to $12 in 2024 without automating and/or cutting jobs and hours. From Wendyll Caisse, ME restaurant owner, and current RWA (Restaurant Workers of America) Treasurer in her testimony to Senator Volke, Representative Fecteau, and members of the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee: Let’s use $1M full service restaurant model for an example. A full service generally makes 5% profit. With the tip credit removal our labor percentage moves from an industry average of 30% to 49% in 2024 when servers make $12/hour. The 50K profit from 2016 transforms into a $145,216 deficit in 2024. That’s with no increases registered for COG’s (cost of goods) and NO MENU PRICE INCREASES, and not a penny for retained earnings which is extremely important in seasonal Maine.
  • Projecting out to 2024 with servers making $12/hour, the prospect of finding staff willing to fill those positions was not good. One restaurant owner noted that in 2016 the average income for her servers working 30 hours/week was $44,850. At 30 hours/week at $12 in 2024, gross pay would be $18,720. Given the new cultural paradigm, tips above that could not be counted on.
  • Raising menu prices to cover the additional labor cost meant running the risk that customers would stop coming or dine out less, especially folks on fixed income where even small increases have a big impact. If an egg salad sandwich goes from $4.25 to $5.75, that might be enough to keep guests from coming in.
  • Eliminating servers and installing I-pads or order stations would obviously lead to a reduction of jobs and a less intimate hospitality experience.
  • Service charges to potentially make up some of the income reduction to servers are not legal in Maine (unlike CA, Seattle, or Alaska).
  • Exit strategies for restaurant owners (selling the joint for retirement) were more difficult because of the looming, prohibitive operating costs.
  • Closing their restaurants might be their only alternative.
  • The Maine Department of Labor recommended reinstatement of the tip credit.
  • The packed, 15-hour, hearing in April of 2017, with hundreds of restaurant workers at the Burton M. Cross Building in Augusta was one of the best attended public hearings in Maine history.

#4- If eliminating the tip credit and implementing ONE FAIR WAGE is in the best interest of all servers, workers, and restaurant owners, why did LD 673 pass reinstating the tip credit after careful scrutiny by the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee (11-2 favorable vote) and a bi-partisan legislative vote for reinstatement in Maine? Shouldn’t the reversal in Maine send a loud and clear message to Massachusetts, New York, and all other states considering elimination of the tip credit and tipped minimum wage to slow down and thoroughly consider the implications before passing legislation or a ballot initiative?

Fekkak Mamdough:  The people of Maine passed the One Fair Wage ballot measure in November 2016. More people voted in favor of raising the wages of both tipped and non tipped workers than either Presidential Candidate.[10] After it passed – and before it was implemented – the National Restaurant Association (NRA) spent significant funds lobbying to overturn the ballot measure.[11] The NRA is a highly funded trade lobby representing the Fortune 500 corporate restaurant chains. It has lobbied heavily in every state, including Maine, to keep wages for tipped workers as low as $2.13 at the federal level and $3 in Maine. Corporate interests should not overrule the basic needs of working people to survive.

Wendyll Caisse (RWA) response to Fekkak: 

As an active member in the Restaurant Workers of Maine, which was simply a Facebook Page started by a server by the name of Jason Buckwalter from Bangor; I can attest that we did NOT receive even a phone call from the NRA during our grassroots effort of 5,000 servers – and absolutely NO funding – we didn’t even have a bank account! The tipped wage information cited here for Maine is incorrect. After the referendum passed by a slim margin in November, many voters were not even aware of what they had voted for, as the elimination of the tip credit was 1 part of a 3-part question. The start of the wage escalation was implemented on January 1, 2017, the tipped minimum went from $3.75 per hour to $5.00 and the minimum wage went from $7.75 per hour to $9.00. The people most intimately affected by the loss of the tip credit were the ones asking for the reinstatement.

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Considerations for #5 +#6:

 I’ve spoken and communicated with several full service, MA restaurateurs who have run the hard numbers of escalating wages and costs. Many are very concerned about their ability to hang on, especially after an awful, extended winter. (One MA restaurateur just paid $6,400 in a penalty for their employees on MA Health Connector for 2017. That is in addition to what they pay for employees on their restaurant’s health insurance plan that has tripled over the last 8 years.) Given the business model realities of many restaurateurs, the prospect of eliminating the tipped minimum wage and paying all of their servers, bartenders, and tipped workers the full minimum wage threatens the survival of many independent restaurants. There are some folks in unique situations where they own the real estate their restaurant is located within, they have no mortgage or investors to pay, and no debt service, but those circumstances are rare. And some exist with unique financial resources such as grant money, donations, and/or wealthy benefactors. I’ve read a lot of ROC United’s published work, including some of the pieces put forth by the Food Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley where Saru is founder. In all of your work, I have not seen a viable proforma of how a ‘typical’ restaurant, with ‘normal’ debt service is expected to survive in a full minimum wage environment. I would love to see one with verifiable backup.

General Guidelines from Chron: According to Randy White, CEO of the White-Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group, a consulting group, the cost of labor and food at a restaurant should ideally be less than 60 percent of the revenue you bring in. Labor should be less than 30 percent of the revenue. Depending on the type of restaurant you run, though, costs may be higher or lower. For example, if you run a full-service, white-tablecloth restaurant, your labor costs will most likely be higher than if you run a casual dining restaurant, since you will employ more staff to provide a higher level of service.

#5- If a restaurant previously had a tipped minimum wage of $3.75 (current in MA), and the tipped minimum wage went up to $15/hour, even gradually over 5-6 years, what would ROC United’s advice be to owners of FULL SERVICE restaurants (with servers, no automation) to keep Prime Cost under 60%? How much would an owner need to raise their prices to achieve 60% prime? Do you acknowledge the risk of your experiment and why so many restaurant owners are fearful of it?

#6- With the elimination of the tipped minimum wage and ROC United’s Fight for $15, what is the ‘new’ labor cost percentage goal if servers are making $15/hour?

Fekkak Mamdough (Responses to #5 + #6): Restaurant owners in seven states – Alaska, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and California – keep their prime costs well under 60%, and are thriving. The NRA’s data projects that these states will grow faster than the subminimum wage states.[12] California is home to some of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the country; growth would not be possible without profit.[13] These seven states have higher restaurant sales per capita, higher job growth in the restaurant industry, and the same or higher rates of tipping.[14]

Even in New York, the tipped minimum wage has gone from $3.15 to $8.50 over the last several years, and most restaurants keep prime costs well under 60%. The New York restaurant industry has grown significantly over the same period that the tipped minimum wage has risen.[15]

We have 500 restaurant owners, many of whom are from the seven One Fair Wage states and New York state, who would be happy to share data on how they have managed to raise tipped workers’ wages, many to $15 an hour. All of those OFW states have a treasure trove of information on how to grow WITH their workforce that the Other NRA could share with restaurants around the country if they were so inclined. We invite restaurants to join RAISE and meet high road restaurateurs from around the country and discuss their business models. The National Restaurant Association has certainly spread fear among restaurant owners based on misinformation and calumny.

Patrick Maguire response: Fekkak, I would love to see the data from the full service restaurants in the 7 ‘One Fair Wage’ states operating at prime costs “well under 60%” that are “thriving.” Has this data been presented to the legislature, the Labor Committee and all parties currently negotiating in Massachusetts?

Wendyll Caisse (RWA) response to Fekkak:

To loosely say “One Fair Wage States’ is disingenuous, as all of the seven states have significant carve outs and lower minimums than any of the current legislation ROC is promoting. These states added language to make the financial model of full service restaurants remain viable:

  • Alaska: Statewide minimum wage of $9.80 (See below).
  • California: Minimum wage applicable to employers with 25 employees or less: $10; applicable to employers with 26 employees or more: $10.50.
  • Minnesota: Large employer, an enterprise whose gross volume of sales made or business done is not less than $500,000, has a minimum wage of $9.50; a small employer, an enterprise whose gross volume of sales made or business done is less than $500,000, has a minimum wage of $7.75 as of August 2016.
  • Montana: Business with gross annual sales over $110,000: $8.15; A business not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act whose gross annual sales are $110,000 or less may pay $4.00 per hour. However, if an individual employee is producing or moving goods between states or otherwise covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, that employee must be paid the greater of either the federal minimum wage or Montana’s minimum wage.
  • Nevada: With no health insurance benefits provided by employer and received by employee: $8.25; with health insurance benefits provided by employer and received by employee: $7.25.
  • Oregon: $9.75
  • Washington: $11.

…..and this is the result even in Alaska at $9.80:

“BigRuss” on Apr 1, 15 at 1:40pm, (Commenter on Fodors.com travel site for Alaska, one min. wage state, at $9.80/hr):

“Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula probably have more competition and more access to supplies than anywhere else in Alaska and the dining prices are 30-50% higher than what you would expect to pay in the lower 48; yes, even in NYC or San Francisco.”

ROC chose not to answer the second part of #5 above, “How much would an owner need to raise their prices to achieve 60% prime?” It’s between 20-40% depending upon how much an operator reduces staff, if an operator automates, the menu price increases would be closer to 12% (plus traditional inflationary increases) over the course of the Massachusetts escalation. It’s a math issue that will be absolutely unsustainable for our rural locations and customers on fixed budgets.

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Considerations for #7:

Leslie Stahl conducting an interview with Sara Jayaraman on 60 Minutes Overtime on 4/15/18:

Leslie: “… you can see that if you’re wanting to get a tip and a guy reaches out, you’re probably not going to slap his hand.”

Saru: “You have no choice. You’re living completely off your tips. You have to put up with whatever the customer does to you.”

[End of interview excerpts.]

That’s not true. In well-run restaurants (and all businesses), sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior from customers, employees, vendors, or anyone is not tolerated. Strong servers, managers, and owners take a stand, intervene, and follow up aggressively and thoroughly to protect the well being and rights of their employees. They are proactive and ensure that their staff knows how to quickly and decisively escalate a bad situation, and they make sure that communication and support systems are in place to follow up.

Erin Wade, co-founder and chief executive of Homeroom restaurant in Oakland, CA wrote an Opinion piece for the Washington Post on March 29, 2018 titled, I’m a female chef. Here’s how my restaurant dealt with harassment from customers. Here are a few excerpts:

“What’s needed is a conversation about women — not as victims, but as revolutionaries. I am an overtly feminist restaurateur, and harassment still happened at my restaurant. This is my story, my solution and my call to action.”

“Women of America’s businesses — please share your suggestions for solving the problems plaguing your workplace. This moment is ours — let’s take hold of it and make the world listen.”

From the Raleigh, North Caroline News & Observer on 10/26/17:

“In Raleigh, chef Ashley Christensen took to social media to call on restaurants to reevaluate kitchen culture, its reputation and its reality, and ensure environments are safe and respectful. In a statement posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, she commended the bravery of the Besh Restaurant Group accusers and denounced the allegations.”

Quotes from Ashley’s social media from within the piece:

“The issue of sexual harassment is extremely important to me, to my company, and to the industry as a whole.”

“We also have a great HR director, who we hired about 18 months ago, and her guidance has been invaluable. She is directly available to all of our staff to address any of their concerns, positive or negative. Additionally, our managers will direct employees to her if they feel we’re anywhere close to a topic that may require her skill set. I think it’s almost impossible as a business owner to review situations between employees in a truly neutral manner, and having a skilled HR director allows us to provide that resource and safe zone to our team. Everyone deserves that. I think many independent restaurant owners view investment in an HR presence as too costly. I have to say, I think it’s the most important investment we’ve ever made.”

“I applaud the women who came forward and admire the bravery that it took to do so. While these reports are difficult and disheartening and confusing, I’m grateful for the spotlight that it’s shining on the work that needs to be done. Lewd language and behavior is so often overlooked or tolerated in restaurants and as leaders, we have to take the steps to cleanse our industry of this. I think even the most engaged, well intentioned hospitality groups out there can probably find opportunities to be better, safer, more respectful. So let’s get to it.”

Dawn Lafreeda, owner-operator of Den-Tex Central, which owns 81 Denny’s restaurants in an Opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on 4/12/18:

Don’t Blame Tips for Sexual Harassment – Waitresses see gratuities as a great feature of the job.

From the piece:

For years I was told that running a full-service restaurant was a man’s game. I still remember the response from the banker I approached in 1984 to open my first company account: “Young lady, are you sure you’re not the waitress?” I was a waitress at one time—saving my tips and maxing out credit cards to buy my first restaurant—but not that day.

A lot has changed. Today I’m the owner-operator of 81 Denny’s restaurants across the South and Midwest. I don’t get many double-takes when I try to open a bank account, but I still encounter people who suggest women can’t fend for themselves in the restaurant industry.

Consider the claimed link between sexual harassment and tips. Because female servers earn most of their compensation through tip income, the narrative goes, they’re forced to put up with bad behavior from customers. We’re told that women are powerless victims, so dependent on the customer for their next dollar that they’ll tolerate any boorish behavior.

But that doesn’t describe the thousands of women I work with. Servers in my restaurants, especially women, don’t see tip income as a drawback. It’s a great feature of the job. Having cash at the end of the day—and not just on payday—helps a lot. Bad behavior is an occasional problem in any industry, but blaming the tipping system insults millions of women who benefit from it.

Yet some want to do away with tipping. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is considering a proposal to eliminate the lower minimum wage for tipped workers. This could lead to the end of tipping.

The theory is that replacing tips with a higher base wage will reduce sexual harassment. In reality it will result in less take-home pay for a large section of the hourly labor force. New York restaurateurs have already learned that lesson the hard way. Servers are fleeing restaurants that try higher base wages in lieu of tips. Some 97% of restaurant staff prefer the status quo to a tipless alternative, according to data from Upserve. Even a base wage of $20 an hour wouldn’t compensate many servers for the income they would lose if tips disappeared.

Forbes Magazine published a piece by Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute on 3/6/18 titled, Sexual Harassment Is Awful. But It Has Nothing To Do With Tipping.

From the piece:

“(Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United) is a controversial labor advocacy organization with its own history of alleged bad behavior; it was even sued by its own employees for illegal firings. But ROC’s profile has been rising in recent years, with celebrities such as Jane Fonda and Amy Poehler embracing its cause (if not the restaurant servers that ROC claims to represent).”

“Some version of ROC’s “tipping = harassment” claim has been repeated hundreds of times by ROC, its surrogates, and reporters who apparently believe it’s too good to check. But the errors are numerous, and start with the fact that ROC doesn’t even cite its own research accurately. (I reached out to ROC and offered its team the opportunity to comment on this and other critiques of its report, but did not hear back.)”

“This column has previously debunked the dubious economic benefits of raising the tipped wage. And the analysis above makes clear that the sexual harassment angle is equally flawed. If servers oppose the “raise,” and there’s no good policy rationale, the question remains: Why would policymakers propose changing such a beneficial and widely-favored status quo?”

#7- Saru, Fekkak, Sekou, and ROC United leadership- I believe that commingling the issues of sexual harassment and server compensation (via tipping and tipped minimum wage) is a strategy being employed by ROC United (with cherry picked data) to mislead and exploit the very people that you are claiming to be advocating for. And many of the Hollywood folks jumping on the morality bandwagon are enjoying the optics of the crusade, but are misinformed and unaware of the crucial details (and math) of how a cause they claim to be champions of could actually harm many individuals and small businesses. There should be more time, effort, and energy focusing on facts, education, and compromise to benefit servers and all workers rather than all of the divisive rhetoric against ‘rival’ lobbying groups. I welcome your response to my statements and anything cited above following question #6.

Fekkak Mamdough:  There are now multiple sources of research and investigative journalism that corroborate that a mostly female workforce of tipped workers (two-thirds of tipped workers nationally are women) having to rely entirely on tips for their income subjects them to sexual harassment from customers, co-workers and managers. We surveyed 688 workers nationally on the issue; nearly 90% said they experienced sexual harassment as a result of having to tolerate inappropriate customer behavior to feed their families in tips.[16]These workers reported that because co-workers and managers knew that the women in tipped positions relied on them to earn their income in tips, these co-workers and managers had the power over these women to exact sexual favors. These workers also reported that managers told them to ‘dress more sexy, show more cleavage, and wear tighter clothing’ in order to please customers and earn more income in tips.

Workers in the seven One Fair Wage states reported experiencing sexual harassment at half the rate of the states that require restaurant owners to pay the subminimum wage of $2.13 an hour. Workers in these states reported that because they received a full wage from their employer, and tips were on top of that wage, they did not have to tolerate anything and everything from customers in order to feed their families entirely in tips. Workers in the seven One Fair Wage states also reported that managers told them to dress more sexy, show more cleavage, or wear tighter clothing in order to make more money in tips at one third the rate of states that only require employers to pay the subminimum wage of $2.13 an hour. Again, women in the seven states have wages in addition to tips, and so they do not have to accept disrespectful behavior to receive income.

We conducted this research because so many women servers and tipped workers came forward to us and shared their stories of sexual harassment in the industry, and how their experience of sexual harassment was directly connected to having to live entirely off of tips rather than receiving a wage from their employer with tips on top. Most of the celebrities working with ROC worked as servers and tipped workers in their youth and experienced sexual harassment themselves as tipped workers. So our campaign is based both on a great deal of research and facts and the lived experiences of millions of women and men across America.

Patrick Maguire response: Fekkak, you painstakingly provided 18 footnotes for several items, but did not provide any to support your opening comments, “There are now multiple sources of research and investigative journalism…” 

Please provide a copy of the survey and the method of choosing the 688 workers that you mentioned above.

Wendyll Caisse (RWA) response to Fekkak: 

The perpetrator of harassment bares the sole responsibility of their deviant behavior because to point blame on the compensation system removes the blame from the accused. Sexual harassment is a cultural problem that we are finally beginning to address, and if solving this social issue was as easy as a wage discussion, on street harassment wouldn’t be the most prominent situation that harassment is experienced in. RWA in no way acknowledges any ‘reports’ executed by ROC because of their flawed methodology, such as using IP addresses for the One Wage states vs. doing focus groups and interviews. Additionally, we at RWA hold their interviewer training and interviewer ‘drawing’ techniques as highly suspect. This is from ROC’s interviewer training manual:

Screenshot_20180501-183632

Fekkak states above that 90% of their respondents had experienced sexual harassment, but in reading their ‘report’ they include everything from off-color jokes to being asked out on a date, and this 90% also includes management, as I said, their ‘research’ is not viable. With all of this, the numbers are naturally inflated from, say, what would be reported to the EEOC. They also lump responses from current and former restaurant workers. Also, oddly in this same ‘report’ here’s this direct quote on page 10, “ROC United has gathered over 5,000 surveys of restaurant workers around the country examining wages and working conditions.*(42)* Over ten percent of workers surveyed reported that they or a co-worker had suffered from sexual harassment.

*(footnote 42)*  ROC-United analysis of National Behind the Kitchen Door (BKD) Database, 2014

I would say this means that ROC has spent a lot of time and money crafting language in their boilerplate reports that suit their agenda, but happily for the millions of workers in the restaurant industry, ROC has found that close to 90% of the workers surveyed have never suffered from sexual harassment, nor have their co-workers.

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Considerations for #8:

From Politico’s Morning Shift Newsletter on 3/29/18:

TIP TIFF IN NEW YORK: A pro-tipping restaurant organization attacked supporters of a plan by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to end the state’s lower tipped wage. “Thank you for your concern. But we don’t need your help, and we’re not asking to be saved,” said the Restaurant Workers of America, a group that opposes ending tip credits. The group was responding to a letter sent last week by 16 prominent film and TV actresses (including Jane Fonda, Reese Witherspoon, and Natalie Portman) that urged Cuomo to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers. The letter said that tipping results in higher rates of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry.

But the RWA contends the actresses were “misled” by the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, a worker advocacy organization, into believing restaurant workers are “helpless victims of sexual harassment.” ROC United President Saru Jayaraman accused the RWA of being backed by the National Restaurant Association, and pledged to furnish proof next month. But both the National Restaurant Association and Restaurant Workers of America  denied any financial ties between the two organizations. “Once again ROC is wrong. … The National Restaurant Association has never made financial contributions to Restaurant Workers of America,” said Cicely Simpson, a spokesperson for the National Restaurant Association.

#8- Has the pledge to furnish proof of the accusation that RWA is being backed by the National Restaurant Association been followed up on by Saru or anyone at ROC United?

Fekkak Mamdough:  Restaurant owners who are part of the National Restaurant Association funded the launch of Restaurant Workers of Maine, which then launched Restaurant Workers of America. The RWA has admitted it receives no money from restaurant workers, only restaurant owners.[17] The NRA funds the RWA to travel around the country to oppose higher wages for restaurant workers.[18]  (Fekkak Mamdough footnotes are included at the end of this blog post.)

Wendyll Caisse (RWA) response to Fekkak:

While some of the above answers are disingenuous, this response is a patent lie. The Restaurant Workers of Maine was simply a Facebook group of 5,000+ servers, started by a server that received ZERO funds and never had a bank account. The RWA is not funded by, nor connected to, the NRA. As the Treasurer of this new 501c4, I was happy to see numerous $1 and $5 membership fees coming in from tipped servers across the country; there have been no deposits from the NRA. Again, ROC has made another false statement; we HAVE received funds from restaurant workers. Through the generosity of our restaurant community, our board members have been able to enjoy low travel expenses due to people offering rides, couches, and meeting accommodations at no cost to us.

Summary response from Wendyll Caisse (RWA):

I need to highlight a few extremely-concerning false statements that ROC made. ROC dismisses our grassroots victory in Maine by suggesting the National Restaurant Association spent “significant funds” to undo it. If you look at their source for this claim, it doesn’t even support it — it’s a FEB 2016 newsletter  that relates to a minimum wage ballot measure in the city of Portland. In February 2016, the statewide initiative wasn’t even qualified for the ballot yet! So it’s unclear to me how ROC can justify its claim about something in 2017 using a Feb 2016 newsletter.

“After it passed – and before it was implemented – the National Restaurant Association (NRA) spent significant funds lobbying to overturn the ballot measure.[11]“-Fekkak Mamdough ROC United

Wendyll Caisse: The tipped wage information sited by ROC for Maine is incorrect also. After the referendum passed by a slim margin in November, the start of the wage escalation was implemented on January 1, 2017, the tipped minimum went from $3.75 per hour to $5.00 and the minimum wage went from $7.75 per hour to $9.00.

This section below is what’s most concerning to me. While I’m flattered that ROC is apparently tracking our activity very closely, it’s frankly insulting that they would make such false claims and expect no one to question it.

“Restaurant owners who are part of the National Restaurant Association funded the launch of Restaurant Workers of Maine, which then launched Restaurant Workers of America. The RWA has admitted it receives no money from restaurant workers, only restaurant owners.[17] The NRA funds the RWA to travel around the country to oppose higher wages for restaurant workers.[18]“ -Fekkak Mamdough ROC United

Wendyll Caisse (RWA):

Let me be clear:

1) No one “funded” Restaurant Workers of Maine — we didn’t even have a bank account! Servers and owners each chipped in where necessary to cover signs, buttons, t-shirts, etc –that’s it. We did what we did without funding.

2) We never said we receive “no money” from restaurant workers, and the article ROC links to doesn’t say that, either. In fact, even though we waived servers’ dues for the first year, we’ve nevertheless had a number of employees who’ve voluntarily chosen to join as paying members because they support our cause so strongly.

3) This statement — “The NRA funds RWA to travel around the country to oppose higher wages for restaurant workers” — is categorically false. I’m the treasurer of RWA, and I’d know if we were receiving support from the NRA. We’re not — zip, zero, zilch, nada. Amusingly, ROC gives a 2017 citation to support this — and we didn’t even launch our group until 2018.

Response to Fekkak Mamdough’s answers from Massachusetts Restaurant Association:

Stephen Clark-Director of Government Affairs MRA (sclark@themassrest.org) and Bob Luz-President & CEO MRA (BLuz@themassrest.org):

ROC, which is funded by national labor unions, continues to mention Fortune 500 companies and a $2.13 federal tip wage. The reality is that less than 2% of tipped employees in Massachusetts work for a company on this list (a list made up of some of the largest companies in the world, not the Sunday morning diner, the local Friday night dining spot or even the lunch place that just opened that you have been meaning to try). The Massachusetts restaurant industry is made up of small, independent restaurant owners and these are the restaurants on Main Streets in every town in Massachusetts.

 The Massachusetts tip wage is currently $3.75, and each tipped employee is guaranteed to earn a full minimum wage (currently $11/hr) for all hours worked. The tip wage allows the highest percentage of employees in a restaurant to earn the highest average wage, with many tipped servers earning in excess of $25 or $30 per hour. Massachusetts tipped employee wages have increased 84% in the last 15 years and currently has among the highest tipped wage earners in the country (hourly tip wage + declared tips), topping even California which has no tip wage. Any increase in the starting wage automatically increases server wages. Whenever an operator is forced to increase menu prices, the amount left for a tip increases as well. There are 80,000 tipped employees in our state that choose to work in our local restaurants and they are not asking for the change, they understand the economics of a restaurant and recognize they are maximizing their earning potential under the current system.

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Future items for discussion beginning with Tipped Minimum Wage-Part 2:

General Topics:

  • Follow up on every item in Part 1.
  • Proof of who is telling the truth and who is lying to their ‘constituents,’ the public, and why.
  • “Follow the money” of all lobbyists and advocacy groups. What is their true motivation and ‘end game?’
  • Timing of MA legislative action and ballot initiative.
  • Definition of “Tip Credit.”
  • Political, ‘Think Tank’ machines with financial, self-fulfilling motives vs. bare bones, grass roots initiatives.
  • Unintended, counter-intuitive consequences of proposed advocacy of workers. Lower net compensation, reduced staff shifts/hours, less full service restaurants.
  • Public records, including salaries and expenses of all non-profits involved.
  • Deep dive into data of 7 ‘One Fair Wage’ states. (Include discussion of state-specific service charges, admin fees, etc. in comparing states.)
  • Math/ financial models of real MA restaurants and the impact of proposed changes. How will independent, full service restaurants thrive, not just survive? Can a creative compromise work?
  • Math, data, and facts from as many resources as possible.
  • Breakdown restaurant types from no service, no tips/casual to full service, full liquor, fancy. One size does not fit all. Let operators adopt what works for their business.
  • ‘Celebrity’ crusaders. What exactly do Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and others know, and what are their sources of information?
  • Lack of media coverage/awareness of the details in Maine before ballot vote. Preventing the same outcome through education in MA, NY, and elsewhere. Simplifying the message.
  • PEOD-Price Elasticity of Demand. Statistics on impact of increased menu prices and what the public will tolerate.
  • Educating the public about the realities of the low profit margins for independent, full service restaurants.
  • New MA EMAC (Employee Medical Assistance Corp) supplemental tax for restaurants up to $750 per employee per year.
  • Higher minimum wage raising all other hourly wages at the restaurant.
  • Increased minimum wage taking money away from fairly compensating other staff, as well as restaurant improvements.
  • The gradual increase only prolongs the agony before the demise of independent, full service restaurants.
  • Restaurateurs have already been aggressively reducing costs every way possible. Don’t tell them they need to start now.
  • Comparison of revenue per employee for small businesses (5-10k) vs large companies.
  • Creating a fair and reasonable legal framework and let the entrepreneurs and the free market decide what works best for individual operators.
  • Specific actions workers and restaurateurs can take to advocate for their income and livelihoods.
  • Alternative creative solutions if MA legislature doesn’t act and ballot question fails. (Matt Mazzotta’s proposal.)
  • Break RaiseUp MA ballot question into 2 parts, full minimum vs. tipped minimum?
  • Cambridge, MA cafes closing earlier due to labor costs. Boston Globe 9/26/17.
  • Boston Globe, 10/24/17-Dudley Dough in Roxbury, MA and lessons learned about labor costs.
  • Globe Magazine-The Citgo Sign Has a Dark Side. Should Boston Care? Commingling the social contract of tipping with slavery.

ROC United:

  • Salaries, travel, office and lobbying expenses, and grants for ROCU listed on form 990, including 2017, when available.
  • Food Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley (Salaries, data ‘gatekeeper,’ does public access to all data and methods?)
  • NYT “Dear Sugars” Podcast 3/24/2018 (Data to support claims about 7 states that ‘did away’ w/tipped minimum wage. IHOP, Applebees, Denny’s, and Olive Garden Workers vs. tipped workers at independent restaurants. “Systemic situations of structural power, story at the end of the podcast empowering staff and strong leadership.)
  • Union affiliation/support? Is unionizing restaurant workers the end game?
  • ROC dues from individual worker members and restaurants.
  • Jennifer Schellenberg (RWA) in Washington Examiner on 3/12/18 on union dues and membership motivations.
  • Response to Wendyll Caisse (RWA) financial projections for MA restaurants 2108 vs 2024, “The MA Tip Credit Protects Jobs.” ROC projections/proforma vs. RWA forecast?
  • Julia Tavlas Capital Research Center piece dated 8/2/2013.
  • Comingling of issues to support the cause (Tipping, slavery origin, sexual harassment, bullying, power dynamics.)
  • Morality play/extremism of celebrity PR.
  • The crusade vs reality. Imposing what works for some with the moral high ground and guilt.
  • The history, operating model, and funding of COLORS restaurants.
  • EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) stats vs. ROC stats, interview methodology, and demographics of participants. Rhetoric vs. reality.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics median vs. mean and inclusion of tipped non-restaurant workers to skew the data.
  • Real restaurants. Real math. Working financial models and proof that eliminating the tipped minimum wage is the best model. This should be the foundation of the discussion.

RWA (Restaurant Workers of America)

  • Wendyll Caisse financial projection 2018 vs 2024, “The MA Tip Credit Protects Jobs.”
  • Financial models of real, operating restaurants redacting names to protect identity. Real math and the projected impact. Let’s compare all of the models in MA and every state before moving forward with legislation or ballot questions.
  • Initial perception of servers that they would benefit from the change vs. reality. Misconception of “higher base pay = more money.”
  • Maine People’s Alliance and Maine Small Business Alliance in Maine. Fact vs. Fiction
  • Member dues and funding.

NRA (National Restaurant Association):

  • Responses to items in Part 1?
  • Financials, member dues and funding.

MRA (Massachusetts Restaurant Association):

  • Additional responses to items in Part 1?
  • Financials, member dues and funding.

Raise Up Massachusetts:

  • Response to items in Part 1?
  • Financials, funding.

The Alliance for Business Leadership

  • Response to items in Part 1?
  • Awaiting response from Nai Collymore-Henry
  • Finances and funding.

Please join the conversation in the comments section, and share this post if so inspired. Much more to follow. Stay tuned for Part 2. Inquiries and submissions to patrick@servernotservant.com. Thank you to everyone who contributed. -Patrick Maguire

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Fekkak Mamdough Footnotes:

[1] Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (2018). Better Wages Better Tips.

[2] National Restaurant Association (2017). 2017 National Restaurant Association Restaurant Industry Outlook.

[3] 2011-2016 data for 722511 number of full service restaurant workers. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

[4] Average tipping rates for all states in 2016 and 2017 using Square data based on millions of observations. See Ferdman, R.A. (March 2014). Which US states tip the most (and least), based on millions of Square transactions. Quartz.; and Johnson, D. (August 2017). Find out which states give the worst tips. Time.

[5] Ibid.

[6] PayScale (2015). Best and Worst Cities for Food Service Workers.

[7] Fu, J. (February 2018). The Department of Labor’s tip-pooling proposal is a mess. The New Food Economy.

[8] Strong, A. (March 2018). Restaurant Owners and Managers Cannot Keep Servers’ Tips Per New Budget Bill. Eater.

[9] See note 1,2,3,4.

[10] Chin, B. (January 2017). Ditching personality politics for bold policies is how to win working class, rural Maine. Maine Beacon.

[11] Maine Innkeepers Association (February 2016). Legislative Happenings. INNterviews.

[12] See note 2.

[13] Technomic (2018). 2018 Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report.

[14] See notes 1, 2, 3, 4.

[15] Institute for Policy Studies & ROC United (2018). New York Saw Boost in Restaurant Worker Wages and Employment after Tipped Minimum Wage Increase.

[16] ROC United & Forward Together (2014). The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry.

[17] Romeo, P. (February 2018). Restaurants Find an Ally in their Fight to Keep the Tip Credit: Servers. Restaurant Business Online.

[18] National Restaurant Association (2017). 2017 U.S. Restaurant Government Affairs Conference: Protecting America’s Industry.

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‘Common Sense,’ Guns, and Murder in America. Boston Alumni of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Speak Out

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 2/19/2018

On 2/15/18, the day after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, I posted the following on Facebook:

Wikipedia notes that Craig Nelson called Thomas Paine a “pragmatic utopian,” who deemphasized economic arguments in favor of moralistic ones, and the writer calling himself “Cato,” denounced Paine as dangerous and his ideas as violent… Despite Paine’s dissenters, Historian Gordon S. Wood described Paine’s pamphlet ‘Common Sense’ as “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era.”

["Economic arguments," (read GREED) is winning. The will of the American people, 'moralistic' values/arguments are losing.]

Could we ever use some common sense now…

Imagine if common sense, intelligence, and wisdom prevailed and we gathered together the brightest people from America and around the world, checked egos, greed, and party affiliations at the door, put everything on the table–including practical solutions that are working in nations around the world (Australia), and implemented policies, strategies, and laws to curtail the inevitable murders if we continue to do nothing??? This IS life and death. Unfortunately, our current leaders don’t have the courage, conviction, and vision to make that happen, and common sense has become a utopian concept in America.

The rancor, vitriol, entrenched acrimony, and divisive political paralysis that rule the day in America is perpetuating murder, it’s disgraceful, and threatening our ‘civilized’ democracy. Our inept ‘leaders’ are tragically failing the people whose interests they have sworn to represent and protect through their lack of leadership, initiative, and action. And we’re enabling them when we fail to rise up, demand change, and hold them accountable.

I understand that this is a complex problem, but ‘we’ (Americans) need to step up and respond to this tragic crisis with the ‘life and death’ sense of urgency that these repeated mass murders warrant. Complacency and inaction have never been the hallmark of “The Greatest Nation on Earth.” (We’re not, and don’t need to be.) The unequivocal, ‘plain truth’ is that the lack of response to the wanton murders is disgraceful.

Tangible, thoughtful, realistic action items and solutions welcome, please. Thank you.

In the comment thread that followed I included this post from the Live The Hero Blog. A few noteworthy quotes from the piece:

“Heroism, as depicted in great legends from around the world, from ancient myth to modern accounts, gives us a blueprint for how to act in the wake of crisis. The stories of real and fictional heroes are meant to remind us that heroism is about taking action and seeking solutions rather than succumbing to despair.”

“Please don’t think I’m suggesting that everyday heroism is the only solution to mass murder. I’m not trying to be simplistic. Like any human behavioral phenomenon, this is a complicated crisis. This issue certainly encompasses mental health, gun control, and other potential causes. These things should be part of the complex conversation.”

“But the legend of the Gordian Knot teaches us that no matter how complex an issue, we have the ability to make the “simple” decisions to act and strive toward solutions. Life may be complex, but deciding to seek positive change can be a small yet powerful step in a better direction.”

I also included a quote posted on facebook by my friend, Justin Manjourides, that was included in an email from the Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health regarding the Parkland shooting:

“As many of you know, federal funding for gun violence research has been stifled for two decades. This research could lead to a greater understanding of the causes of gun violence and ways it can be prevented.”

Following that quote, Justin’s post continued:

“So whether you want congress to ban all guns or whether you think this is a mental health issue, surely we can all agree that more research into WHY these mass shooting events occur can help us answer this question and prevent future tragedies.

We should all be contacting our congressional representatives and demanding an end to the restrictions placed on public funding for gun violence research in this country.

Despite these restrictions, my friend and colleague Matthew Miller, has been able to conduct meaningful research in this area which consistently shows that access to firearms is positively associated with higher rates of homicides and suicides. Please read it.

Justin is a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

My friend, Leah Goldman posted the following powerful, passionate piece on LinkedIn that I included in my facebook thread:

I am a Marjory Stoneman Douglas kid

I am from Parkland. I went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. These two facts used to be obscure “deep cuts” of Florida geography after saying I grew up in South Florida. Now, since last Wednesday, my hometown and my alma mater are front page news and a staple of the 24-hour news cycle. It is surreal. It is heartbreaking. But I know that if real change is coming, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High is the catalyst to make it happen.

Why am I writing this?

• I am mobilizing my network.

• I’m letting you know that you are connected to this community.

• I’m telling you this is a “whole life” (yes, even professional) issue.

Why is Parkland different?

Well, because it isn’t. Parkland is a place where families move “for the schools.” It’s basically a suburb of a suburb. You, my network, live in these towns or perhaps think about the not-so-distant future when your kids will be in middle school and you’d like to live somewhere like this.

But it also is. MSD molds incredible people. It is a foundation shared by my friends – doctors, educators, engineers, lawyers, tech leaders and so many other amazing individuals – that provided us with the tools we needed to go on to build paths to all make change. We took challenging AP class loads, and were given opportunities to become debaters, band members, athletes, “mathletes,” and so much more… because this school values hard work and community and the students, teachers, and parents reinforce those principles.

My education at Marjory Stoneman Douglas profoundly shaped who I am today. In fact, both my husband [Justin Manjourides] and I went to high school there and attribute much of our paths through college and beyond to the time we spent in (and out) of those classrooms.

Why do you care?

This tragedy obviously hits us emotionally. “What if it was my kid’s school?” “How will those students and teachers move forward?” “What do we do to protect ourselves?”

But now is the time for more than emotion. It is a time for action! We have a national crisis that must be addressed.

• There is a clear outcome that must be delivered. I know from my years working with Fortune 500 companies transforming businesses to perform, we start with defining the outcome we want, determine the root causes and value drivers, and then go and do the work. Move the “big rocks” and cut the “low hanging fruit.” Right now our outcome must be ensuring that students are safe in their schools. Our rocks are the quagmire of policy and a battle of whose “rights” are more sacred. The low hanging fruit is communicating, engaging, and taking action… even if the action is writing your legislators or a LinkedIn article!

• This is a pipeline and employee engagement issue. Students are impacted, and they are now legitimately passionate about their right to learn safely. And they will be your new hires in 5-10 years. I read my network’s posts… we care about engaging our employees, adapting our cultures to best work across generations, and motivating our organizations to constantly grow. Well, guess what, this is a huge population that will be voting and working within the next few years and we must be their champions.

• We have the power to change. We are responsible for creating and growing the great digital ecosystem that is central to our lives. Yes, WE are! My network is full of influencers – executives, consultants, founders, strategists, coaches, and communicators. We are trained to problem solve and create change. We vote with our ballots, our dollars, and our social engagement. We are empowered to do something to change the course of history.

So… What do we do?

In the hours and days since these murders, I have been humbled and proud of the action I see on Facebook. From alumni mobilizing support and action to friends connecting and donating, the view of Parkland from here in Boston is hopeful. But on LinkedIn the stories I see are about “hot job skills” “risk taking” and “communicating”. Let’s take a break from discussing conferences, white papers, and points of view. Let’s mobilize our networks to act and make Marjory Stoneman Douglas High the last mass school shooting in America.

“You have to stand up for some things in this world.” – Marjory Stoneman Douglas

• Contact our leaders. Regardless of our political leanings, we can agree that school shootings are bad and we need to hold our leaders accountable. Go to www.usa.gov/elected-officials and let our leaders know that we demand more from them.

• Demand sensible gun policy. We must ensure that dangerous people do not have access to guns. See how your state stacks up and take action.

I write this today to let you know that YOU are connected to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. I am your connector. Together we can amplify the message of these incredibly brave students and really be the change we want to see in the world.

Leah can be reached at leah.m.goldman@gmail.com.

Thank you for your intensity, empathy, compassion, and for sharing, Leah and Justin. Thank you for including me, and in turn, everyone reading this, in your network. We’re just getting started…

Please share this post if inspired to do so. I will edit this post and add recommended action items and events for those who are moved to participate. Please email me at Patrick@servernotservant.com with action-item suggestions. Our government is failing us. It’s time to speak up, mobilize, take and demand action. Thank you.

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Social Media for Restaurants & Small Businesses-Essential in 2018

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Rules of Engagement

Posted: 1/20/2018

At a luncheon meeting with a chef/owner of a Boston area restaurant, the chef and client of my consulting business told me that he chose the restaurant based on the recommendation of Marc Hurwitz, founder of Hidden Boston, an online restaurant guide covering Boston and New England. The Hidden Boston platforms have a combined reach of 185,000+ followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Marc had highly recommended the chicken wings, and they were very good. To acknowledge the referral, I took a picture of the wings and was preparing to post it on my Instagram and Twitter accounts, tagging the restaurant and Hidden Boston. Unfortunately for the restaurant, they had no Instagram or Twitter accounts, and still don’t today. As a result, the restaurant didn’t benefit from a post that would have been visible to a minimum of 148,000 people (IG and Twitter), plus the retweets and people who searched Google or searched the hashtag #ChickenWings. And when I was there, the restaurant wasn’t very busy…

On January 7, 2018 Zagat released their 2018 Dining Trends Survey: Highest Tippers, Social Media Habits and More that included:

“In our last dining trends survey we learned that 75% of our respondents who browse food photos have chosen a place to eat based on social media, in addition to other fascinating stats on dining deal-breakers, tipping habits and more. Once again, we attempted to tackle the curious subject of diner behavior by tapping into the opinions of nearly 13,000 avid diners across the country in our 2018 survey.”

There is no excuse in 2018 for restaurants and most businesses to ignore the importance of establishing and maintaining social media accounts. You can’t benefit from ‘passive’ promotion from ambassadors of your restaurant if you’re not even in the game. Sometimes it is about life and death, and other times it’s about your brand, reputation, promotions, and crisis management.

Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” (25+ million copies sold), noted in a blog post on 10/31/08:

I sometimes use the metaphor of an Emotional Bank Account. Like a financial bank account, you can make deposits and take withdrawals from the account. When you make consistent deposits, out of your integrity and out of your empathy—that means your understanding of what deposits and withdrawals are to other people—those two things—empathy and integrity—that little by little you can restore trust.

This metaphor translates perfectly to businesses and the people who own, lead, manage, and operate them. And PR, social media, and marketing play a critical role in consistently making deposits to build trust and respect with employees, vendors, your community, and current and future customers.

Life and death. During the summer of 2016, a very popular Boston food truck suddenly lost a young member of their work family to a tragic death. A few days later, the owner of the food truck took to social media and posted a heartfelt tribute and a link to a campaign to raise money for their brother’s funeral services. As a result, they raised almost 2 times their goal so the family of the deceased could properly pay their respects and celebrate his life. No business or human being is exempt from unexpected tragedy.

Restaurants and other businesses face challenges every day–less extreme examples than above, that require effective communication with their customers and their network. If a sprinkler head explodes, you’re robbed, experience a fire, flooding, or mechanical failure, and need to communicate temporary or extended closures, the larger your network is, the easier it is to get the word out, on your terms.

Many social media “resisters” haven’t established accounts because of their misconception about what’s involved to get started and maintain them. It’s really not as difficult as many people think. Here are a few examples of why restaurants and small businesses should have a minimum of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, and a growing email database for newsletters:

  • Recruiting staff.
  • Congratulating/recognizing employees.
  • Acknowledging and thanking loyal regulars and new customers.
  • Promoting/co-branding with vendors, neighbors, friends, and peers.
  • Crisis management-communicating on your terms, not an editor’s.
  • Promoting on-site events and off-site charity event participation.
  • Marketing food and drink specials and seasonal menu changes.
  • Notifying the public when you’re closed due to a private event.
  • Notification of holiday hours, vacation closures, and medical emergencies.
  • Notification when remaining open during snowstorms or extreme weather.
  • Linking to, and acknowledging media coverage, and positive amateur & professional reviews.
  • The passive benefit of customer ‘ambassadors’ promoting your business for you.
  • Grass roots, organic, social media marketing leads to broader media coverage.
  • Building goodwill and making deposits into the “emotional bank accounts” of employees, vendors, and the public.

Imprints and impressions derived from social media drive decisions about where customers dine and consumers spend money. And all businesses can benefit from some genuine goodwill at some point during their tenure. Even busy restaurants have gaps that could be filled in with effective social media marketing. I know of several restaurants that are slow Sunday thru Wednesday that are doing little or nothing to help their own cause via social media and email marketing.

A common refrain I hear from restaurant and business owners is, “I don’t have time for all that social media stuff.” With the increasing number of restaurants and competing entities, restaurants and small businesses cannot afford to ignore the benefits of establishing and maintaining social media platforms. They are essential, and failure to embrace social media will put restaurants and small businesses at a competitive disadvantage.  It’s not that hard to get started or improve upon what you are currently doing.

After requests from prospective clients in Boston and across the US, I’m now offering a new Social Media Audit & Consultation for restaurant and small business clients. This social media marketing, independent audit, and workshop, is a way to ensure that you, your staff, and affiliates are maximizing the potential to market your business. This candid analysis and feedback will ensure that your restaurant/business is at the forefront of social media marketing, you’re “in the game,” and that you remain current with ideas to improve your business and income on an ongoing basis.

Who will benefit?

#1- Restaurants and small businesses across the USA currently not using or maximizing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and email marketing to engage their current and prospective customers to maximize sales.

#2- Restaurants and small businesses that are using social media but realize they could be doing a much better job, and need a jump-start to inspire them and get them back on track.

Details and pricing here.

Please forward this post to any restaurant or small business owners who could benefit from it.

Thank you-Patrick  Email: Patrick@servernotservant.com

Instagram and Twitter: @PatrickMBoston

Disclosure: I have a professional relationship with Marc Hurwitz of Hidden Boston, and refer restaurant and small business clients to him for sponsored social media posts.

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Social Media Audit & Consultation for Restaurants & Small Businesses 2018

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Rules of Engagement

Posted: 1/20/2018

Offer for USA restaurants and small businesses from Patrick Maguire of Maguire Promotions-PR, Social Media & Hospitality Consulting.

After requests from prospective clients in Boston and across the US, I’m now offering a new, personalized Social Media Audit & Consultation Workshop for restaurant and small business clients. This social media independent audit and workshop, is a way to ensure that you, your staff, and affiliates are maximizing the potential to market your business. Too many restaurateurs neglect to ask for respectful, candid feedback to improve their operations. In an environment of fierce competition and a shortage of quality staff, continuous improvement and remaining open to opportunity should always be priorities.

This candid analysis and feedback will ensure that your restaurant/business is at the forefront of social media marketing, you’re “in the game,” and that you remain current with ideas to improve your visibility, relevance, and sales. Social media works:

On January 7, 2018 Zagat released 2018 Dining Trends Survey: Highest Tippers, Social Media Habits and More that included:

“In our last dining trends survey we learned that 75% of our respondents who browse food photos have chosen a place to eat based on social media, in addition to other fascinating stats on dining deal-breakers, tipping habits and more. Once again, we attempted to tackle the curious subject of diner behavior by tapping into the opinions of nearly 13,000 avid diners across the country in our 2018 survey.”

Social media is one of the most economical and powerful influences driving consumer purchasing decisions.

Who will benefit from the consultation?

#1- Restaurants and small businesses across the USA currently not optimizing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or email marketing to engage their current and prospective customers to maximize sales.

#2- Restaurants and small businesses that are using social media but realize they could be doing a much better job, and  need a jump-start to inspire them and get them back on track.

This service is not intended to disrupt any successful, existing relationships you have, but to supplement them. However, too many restaurants and small businesses are over-paying for PR and social media consulting firms that are over-promising and under-delivering. With minimal (but consistent) time and effort, social media can be successfully executed in-house.  For those of you currently managing social media on your own, our partnership, through coaching and candid feedback, will enhance what you and your team are currently doing.

Services include:

• An audit/analysis of your most recent 2 months of social media posts/content. This includes every aspect of your company’s online presence, including your website, social media platforms, and Google search results. This is the respectful, honest feedback you need that your friends, family, regulars, and vendors won’t give you for fear of offending you. The initial evaluation will be performed by me (Patrick Maguire) personally (not an intern), and the results will be presented in writing and in-person or via conference call with your team.

• A copy and review of my “Maguire Promotions Social Media Strategy Guide.”

• A copy and review of my “jm Curley Social Media Strategy” is included with our partnership and will be included in the initial discussion with your team. jm Curley barroom and restaurant in downtown Boston was named one of the “50 Coolest Small Businesses in America” by Business Insider when I was managing the social media marketing and promotions. Business Insider, eagerly embracing social media, currently has 8.1 million likes on facebook, 2.2 million followers on twitter, and 1.2 million followers on Instagram.

• A copy and review of my “Instagram Strategy for Restaurants and Small Businesses,” including a referral for an Instagram takeover/give-away to add 400+ local Instagram followers.

• A copy and review of my “Free Promotional Content Checklist.” We’ll implement protocol for communicating (Internally and externally) and humbly sharing positive reviews of your restaurant/business and all media, blog posts, and features praising your restaurant/business. Most restaurants and businesses have no strategic gameplan for sharing great news.

• A copy and review of my “Social Media Daily Checklist” for restaurants and small businesses.

After emailing all of the highlighted items above to your team, I will meet or conference call with your social media team, and your designated affiliates. (Average initial meeting time is 1.5 hours.)

• After the initial kickoff meeting, 2 hours of consultation, coaching and follow-up is included with our partnership.

Ongoing: I will be constantly seeking ways to promote your restaurant/business and improve your operation. A common complaint I hear from restaurateurs and business owners is, “I don’t have time to keep up with all that stuff. It’s overwhelming.” I agree. I read everything I can locally, nationally and internationally about restaurants and business, and will forward anything that I feel is relevant to your restaurant/business. I often find great pieces on hospitality, training, motivation, leadership, and other industry-related topics. I will forward select items I come across about your restaurant or industry that you may want to forward to your managers or entire staff. Great internal communication builds trust and loyalty.

Next Steps: Getting started on our partnership requires an up-front payment of $500 per restaurant or business that includes all of the services described above. Upon receipt of payment, I will email copies of all of the items above, then schedule time to meet with you and your team, in-person or via conference call.

Please feel free to forward this post to your restaurant industry friends and small business network within the USA who could benefit from this offer. Please contact me to clarify anything included herein, or to answer any questions you may have. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely, Patrick

Email: patrick@servernotservant.com

PS- Please email me for a complete list of all of the restaurant and small business consulting services I provide. All services are available à la carte, and can be tailored to the specific needs of your business. Thank you.

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Boston Beverage Bureaucracy and the Morass of Massachusetts Alcohol Regulations

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Observe / Analyze

Posted: 12/28/2017

On Friday, November 17, 2017 Trillium Brewing Company announced plans to operate an indoor winter beer garden in the historic Roslindale Substation Building ” in partnership with Roslindale Village Main Street.” The post included:

“We had a killer time with the Garden on the Greenway this summer so we jumped at the chance to bring Trillium to another Boston neighborhood,” said Trillium co-owner Esther Tetreault. “Our goal has always been to build a strong community and share what we do. The Substation is such a unique and iconic space, in a welcoming neighborhood, making Roslindale a perfect winter home for the Trillium Garden.”

“Beer aficionados will have the unique opportunity to drink Trillium’s award-winning beer in the Substation’s awe-inspiring space, with its 34 foot ceilings, 18-foot copper clad doors, 250-ton capacity gantry crane, and six two-story windows,” said Alia Hamada Forrest, RVMS’s [Roslindale Village Main Street] Executive Director. “Where Trillium goes, its fans follow. I’m eager to welcome the newcomers that will discover Roslindale’s existing mix of vibrant restaurants and retail options, and hope that these types of creative partnerships continue to spark across all of Boston Main Street districts. We know when you visit — you will want to return.”

The ‘Trillium Garden at the Substation’ pop-up is a good, interim solution for a very cool (and huge), historic, vacant space while the search for a long-term tenant continues. The RVMS website adds:

RVMS identified and sought out Trillium because of its national reputation, loyal following, and successful track record of working in partnership with food, arts, and cultural pop-up events in non-traditional spaces.

Built in 1911, the Substation functioned as part of the Boston Elevated Railway Company’s then revolutionary alternating electric current power system. Designed by architect Robert Peabody of Peabody and Stearns with Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation, the Substation is one of six nearly identical converter substations built in and around Boston at that time. It has been vacant since the 1970s. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Prellwitz Chilinski Associates of Cambridge was the architect for the renovation.

To use Alia Hamada’s (RVMS executive director) words, how do these creative partnerships happen? And why aren’t the details transparent to the public? Unless I’m missing something, the detailed information is not readily available online as it should be.

In January of 2017, Dan Adams in the Boston Globe reported on a long-overdue Massachusetts initiative to review how the state regulates alcohol in a piece titled, ‘Everything is on the table’ in sweeping review of state alcohol rules. From the piece:

Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg is throwing open the doors to the most extensive rethinking of how the state regulates alcohol since the end of Prohibition, directing a new task force to create a more cohesive set of rules that “deals with the 21st century.”

With no limits from Goldberg on which issues it may consider, the group of seven legal and political figures — with input from the public and bars, brewers, distributors, and other companies — will have broad authority to set its own agenda when it meets for the first time later in January(2017).

Among the issues that officials and industry executives suggested could be reviewed: extending the hours for package stores, lifting caps on liquor licenses in each municipality, allowing beer-makers to switch distributors more easily, loosening restrictions on consumers bringing alcohol to restaurants or reusing growlers, boosting funding to the chronically understaffed Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, or clarifying rules about so-called pay-to-play incentives.

Many recommendations would require approval by the Massachusetts Legislature. And lawmakers have been reluctant to make comprehensive changes to state alcohol laws, in part because of heavy lobbying by some members of the industry.

Even so, the effort is already the source of anxiety among brewers, distributors, bars, package stores, and other companies with alcohol licenses. While most agree the current regulatory system is needlessly complex and unclear, each segment is worried that changes sought by other businesses will hurt its own bottom line.

As if the antiquated MA liquor licensing laws aren’t confusing enough, when you consider that the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) has to operate ‘in concert with’ each MA municipality (with their own ‘rules’), clarity becomes  even more elusive…

From the Mass.Gov website:

The Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission is an agency under the Massachusetts State Treasury. Our overall objective is to provide uniform control over the sale, transportation, possession, purchasing, and manufacturing of alcoholic beverages in the state.

Who we serve

We work with companies in the alcoholic beverage industry and municipal licensing authorities to provide licenses, enforce legislation and regulations, and resolve license issues.

Updates on substantive progress from the state have been scarce. The Massachusetts Alcohol Task Force released a preliminary report in August of 2017 that included, “We anticipate providing a final report before the end of the year.”

[I spoke with Chandra Allard, Communications Director for the Office of the Treasurer and Receiver General for the State of MA on 12/27/17. She was extremely professional and helpful, and mentioned that the independent MA Alcohol Task Force was on schedule, and that the Treasurer’s office was expecting the report any day. She offered to forward the report to me, and I will edit this post to include it as soon as I receive it.] 

Edit 12/28/17:  Copy of Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission of Massachusetts: Task Force Report

On Sunday, November 12, 2017, the Boston Globe ran a front page story titled, Scores of Cambridge restaurants paid six figures for a liquor license. Others got them for free. As the title suggests, the process of obtaining a liquor license for Cambridge, MA restaurant owners is complicated, inconsistent, and often frustrating and maddening. The article states that “Nothing on the Cambridge License Commission’s website or at its offices explained how to get a free license,” and that there is “… a long line of Cambridge restaurant owners ensnared in an opaque and arbitrary system in which commissioners granted liquor licenses for free to some, while others had to pay up to $450,000 — sometimes at the direct urging of city officials.”

Excerpts from the Globe piece:

City officials belatedly recognized the regulatory mess they created. A new license commission chair was appointed in January 2016 to help clean up the system. Nicole Murati Ferrer formerly worked at Boston’s licensing agency and was charged with bringing Cambridge in line with state law.

In a Globe interview, Murati Ferrer distanced herself from a number of the commission’s past actions. She is relaxing the hurdles to get free licenses, and she has stopped the commission’s practice of urging license seekers to make deals with particular sellers, which had effectively put the city in the middle of high-cost, private transactions.

But Murati Ferrer made no apologies for past policies on issuing licenses, or the negative consequences for owners caught in the middle. She said the commission had no duty at hearings to inform owners of their options, and that people needed to seek information from the city earlier in the process.

“Our job is not to decide whether you negotiated a good deal,’’ Murati Ferrer said. “The rules and regulations were out there.”

“… the process was uneven at best, as commissioners tried to find middle ground between handing out free licenses and making applicants buy them. They often stretched ethical boundaries, and at times broke the commission’s own rules and state law, according to city and state officials.”

One of the biggest complaints from Cambridge restaurateurs was the lack of transparency in the process of issuing licenses.

As a result of the investigative Boston Globe piece, on November 14, 2017, the Globe ran a follow up piece stating that:

A state agency is investigating the way liquor licenses have been issued in the city of Cambridge, officials said Tuesday, and is focusing on practices that may have violated state laws.

State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, who oversees the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, said she found “troubling” the findings in a Boston Globe report on Sunday that examined liquor license transactions in Cambridge. She said her office was “looking into any allegations of wrongdoing that violate state law.”

Clearly, there is a still a significant amount of work to be done to bring fairness and uniformity to the laws, requirements, procedures, and communications related to local and state liquor licensing in Massachusetts. Which brings us back to the Roslindale.

The original announcement about the Trillium Garden at the Substation and/or the opening on December 7, 2017 was reported on by several Boston news outlets. Even reporting on the complicated licensing process can be confusing as hell, as evidenced in this piece by  Universal Hub. As they often do, none of the media outlets reporting on the opening of Trillium in Roslindale included any public information about the alcohol license, a hearing regarding the license, Neighborhood Association meetings, Fire Dept inspection, certificate of occupancy, or permitting (building or otherwise).

No reporting I’ve seen includes answers to the following:

  1. Exactly what type of alcohol license was issued? [Farmer Brewer License, Farmer-Series Pouring PermitPub Brewery License.] Was it a combination of these and/or part of Boston’s special license initiative to encourage commerce in specific neighborhoods?
  2. What are the restrictions/requirements of the specific beverage license issued? (Beer brewed onsite in Roslindale, etc?) My understanding is that Trillium beer is brewed in Fort Point and Canton only, not Roslindale.
  3. What are the restriction/requirements with respect to serving food? Why isn’t Trillium Garden at the Substation required to serve food out of an ISD-inspected kitchen operating within their facility?
  4. Will neighboring restaurants/purveyors be given preference as food vendors? [Sophia Eppolito reports in the Boston Globe on 12/19 that local food vendors will be invited, and that visitors can bring their own food.]
  5. Where did the license come from?
  6. How much did it cost?
  7. Was the license pre-existing?
  8. Is the license a succession of temporary monthly licenses, renewable or transferable?
  9. Who holds the license, the tenant or the landlord?
  10. Was there a public hearing before the license was issued? If not, why not?
  11. Were there public Neighborhood Association meetings conducted before the license was granted? If not, why not? If yes, are there minutes?
  12. If this was a unique/special license granted, were neighboring restaurants/bars invited to a hearing to ask questions, discuss their concerns or voice their support?
  13. How does the Roslindale neighborhood governing body interact with the city of Boston, State of MA,  and Feds (TTB) to ensure that the process of issuing alcohol licenses is consistent and fair for every licenses issued?
  14. Does the issuance of this specific license pave the way for others to follow suit so “these types of creative partnerships continue to spark across all of Boston Main Street districts?” If yes, is anyone (local, city, state, and Fed levels) collaborating on a ‘playbook’ to show others how to replicate and simplify the licensing process?
  15. Why aren’t most of the answers to the questions above readily accessible online?

When I spoke with Chandra Allard with the MA Treasurer’s office, she noted that after they review/analyze the MA Alcohol Task Force report, they will prioritize the recommendations based on what positive changes they can implement immediately, then changes that will require legislation and/or legal proceedings. She also mentioned that the public is welcome to continue to submit recommendations to the MA Treasury Department’s Constituent Services Team via this link. After I read the report, I will be submitting my recommendations based on the questions above, your comments below, and everything else I can read on these issues.

Currently there are a lot of questions, few answers, and a morass of longstanding, complicated issues that need to be addressed. Clarity, consistency, and complete transparency are some of the most pressing.

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