No “Record” Closings of Seattle Restaurants

SeattleSometimes, I feel like beating my head against the wall. Early this month, Seattle published an article by Sara Jones, Why Are So Many Seattle Restaurants Closing Lately? The article starts by discussing five restaurants that have closed or are closing. None of them are closing because Seattle raised its minimum wage. Then the article spends six paragraphs — about a third of the article — discussing “concerns” that local restaurant owners have about the rising minimum wage. It also quotes a hack from the Washington Restaurant Association. And then the article ends with two paragraphs about how great the Seattle restaurant scene is.

The article itself disproves any notion that Seattle is seeing a mass exodus of restaurants because of the minimum wage. In fact, the article disproves the notion that Seattle is seeing any mass exodus of restaurants for any reason at all. Jones reported, “In Seattle, with approximately 2,300 restaurants, that translates to approximately 400 closures or sells expected — ‘in a good year,’ [CEO of Washington Restaurant Association Anthony] Anton says.” Okay, so that’s 33 per month. And this article is about five restaurants closing in the period from February through May — four months. There should be 133 restaurants closing during that time. Color me unimpressed.

DJW at Lawyers, Guns, & Money covered the story, Are Seattle Restaurants Closing in “Record Numbers”? (Spoiler: No). He made a brilliant observation. Jones ended the article with a blitz of news about restaurant openings. DJW:

Those keeping score at home will note that the article identifies more restaurants opening than closing.

I figure that the history of the Seattle article was as follows. Anthony Anton, president and CEO of Washington Restaurant Association, sent a press release to the magazine. And editor gave it to Jones. She went out looking for this mass exodus of restaurants closing. She didn’t find such a thing. But she did get some nice interviews with some restaurants that were leaving. So she wrote her article. It should have just been in the style section, “Some Restaurants Leaving Seattle as Others Arrive.” But instead, she created an article with what is a non sequitur about the minimum wage in the middle of the otherwise banal story.

Of course the “news” that Seattle restaurant owners are fleeing the city is big news in right wing media. They already knew it was going to happen. And regardless of whether it has happened or ever will happen, they will always know that it did. The Tea Party News Network reported, Seattle Restaurants Closing in Record Number as $15 Minimum Wage Approaches. It gets the facts all wrong. There is nothing to indicate that record numbers of restaurants are closing and it incorrectly states that the minimum wage is going up to $15 on 1 April (it is actually going up to $11). And then the article goes on incorrectly paraphrasing Seattle and deceptively quoting it.

But the worst of it is the tone that the author knows economics, unlike those ignorant people who want to raise the minimum wage. The article starts, “$15 per hour, hell, why not $50 or $100?” This is a common claim of conservatives. But unless they are going to argue for no minimum wage, it makes no sense. In retort: $1 per hour, hell, why not $50 or $100? It makes no sense. These are actually reasons why modest jumps in the minimum wage don’t just cause inflation: namely because they simply create a more equitable partitioning of profits. Raise the minimum wage too high and prices will have to go up.

Such nuance is anathema to conservatives when talking about the minimum wage. It drives me crazy. To them, “It’s simple supply and demand.” But it isn’t. The people getting the raises are also the people eating at the restaurants. The minimum wage doesn’t just increase the cost to the business, it also increases the demand for the business. But these are the same people who claim that if you raise the minimum wage by 10%, “The prices will just go up by 10%.” No they won’t!

To summarize: Seattle published an article about how more restaurants are opening than closing in that great city. The right wing ran with it claiming that the slowly rising minimum wage is causing restaurants to close. But it doesn’t matter. The people reading those right wing articles already knew that what is not happen was happening. Nothing is going to change that. If this minimum wage hike works out really well and the Seattle economy booms, in five years you will hear conservatives say, “Seattle proved that raising the minimum wage destroys jobs!” Facts don’t matter. And I just want to bang my head against the wall.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “No “Record” Closings of Seattle Restaurants

  1. Lately I have been really gleefully hammering home just how impotent the threat of “going Galt” really is. The hard charging grandees of finance and other elites of big business always threaten to leave a city, State or Country if just one iota of economic justice arrives on their doorstep and yet they rarely come close to following through on relocating. Sales taxes go up a little bit, minimum wage goes up and prices may increase slightly and they pay a few extra pennies for their morning coffee and business lunches.

    People, especially rich people, like living in and conducting business in Manhattan, California and Seattle and they never will make a mass exodus to Idaho or Kansas or South Dakota. In the case of Seattle, the downtown elites are not even willing to move to Snohomish County or Tacoma, let alone some pipe dream Gulch or Seastead.

    • Another issue is that pandering doesn’t work because business owners are addicted to it. If they are going to leave, they are going to leave. You might satisfy them for a couple of years, but they will come back demanding (or just whining) and at some point they will leave. The vast majority won’t because they are still making money. I don’t know: maybe taxes have to be low to keep businesses in Mississippi. But the left coast?! Give me a break! (I suppose I am letting my only real territorial pride show, but SF, Portland, and Seattle really are better.) As I recall, while England was getting ready to enact a financial transaction tax, all the traders said they would leave. The result: pretty much nothing.

      What I find very funny about the whole John Galt thing is that it is fiction. Rand set it up so that the country fell apart without these titans of industry. But as I’ve written over and over again, this would not happen. It just isn’t the case that we are dependent upon these people — the difference between the best and the tenth best is generally not skill but rather luck. Rand’s belief that we are dependent is based upon her primitive economic understanding, which led her to posit that people are paid exactly what they were we worth. I wish all the wannabe Galts would go away. The only problem is that I’m pretty sure they would develop their own fascist dictatorship that we’d have to go to war with.

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