Praise, backlash show cafe's 'minimum wage fee' touches a nerve

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The move by a Stillwater restaurant to itemize the cost of Minnesota's recent minimum wage hike on each customer's bill has gained plenty of attention for the Oasis Cafe.

Since the state's minimum wage was raised to $8 an hour on Aug. 1, the cafe has been showing customers that it adds 35 cents to their bill.

Publicity about their move has galvanized both critics and defenders of the minimum wage increase as it has spread around the country. News outlets including the Today show, the Washington Post, and Fox News Latino have featured items on the Oasis.

Much of the coverage has sampled the abundance of comments from the cafe's Facebook page. The Oasis is carrying on as usual, posting items touting its breakfast tacos and omelettes. But the comment section has become a battle zone of sorts, drawing hundreds of comments in some cases.

For now, any fallout over the "minimum wage fee" is happening through social media, not the cash register. On a visit to the cafe this week, the Star Tribune found that business at the Oasis has picked up lately.

In a post to Facebook this week, the Oasis explained the fee this way:

“With regards to why we’re charging a $.35 fee to cover the recent $.75 increase in minimum wage…we estimate the increase in labor cost will will cost our company more than $10,000 per year…which has to be offset by an increase in revenue in order to operate profitably. Rather than increase the prices of our menu items, we chose to charge a flat fee."

Blue Plate Co., which operates eight Twin Cities restaurants, tells the Star Tribune expenses related to the minimum wage hike and the federal health care law have caused the company to raise menu prices and begin charging servers a fee when credit cards are used to pay their tips.

A different perspective on the issue came from Wilde Roast Cafe in Minneapolis:

Gov. Mark Dayton was asked about restaurants charging minimum wage fees during an interview on MPR News Thursday. His response:

"I think it's tacky, myself. But it's their restaurant, and they have a right to freedom of expressions, and so if they're going to make this their way of objecting to it, people can decide for themselves whether they want to continue to patronize a restaurant that ... opposes paying people $8 an hour."

State Sen. Dave Thompson was among the Republicans who unsuccessfully fought the minimum wage increase.

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