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Connecticut restaurants struggle with state's minimum wage increase

While workers are already feeling the increase in pay, local small businesses said they're feeling the pinch.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut’s minimum wage has increased from $13 to $14 beginning July 1. While that's good news for workers, it adds an extra challenge to small businesses at a time when inflation is already impacting operations, at a 9.1% rate, the highest in four decades.

“It’s a tipping point I’m very concerned about,” said Scott Dolch, President and CEO of the Connecticut Restaurant Association.

While workers are already feeling the increase in pay, local small businesses are feeling the pinch.

“These restaurants right now are just struggling to break even after they’ve gone through two years of the pandemic and the depth that they’ve carried and the things they’ve had to do to survive,” said Dolch.

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Dolch said locally owned restaurants were prepared to see this increase in minimum wage, but it’s what that increase does to the rest of their payroll that adds to the challenges.

“Everyone else expects more, if someone just started walking in the door, if they’re going to start at that level they think, 'I should be making more than what I’m making right now,'” said Dolch.

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Seventy-three percent of restaurants in the state are independently owned. Around 700 restaurants permanently closed from the pandemic. The fear is that number will keep going up.

“We had to increase our prices,” said Jamilia Crawford, the manager of Fire-N-Spice Vegan Restaurant.

It’s a method that has worked for the family-owned and operated restaurant in Hartford to combat the rising costs of business operations.

“The way things are going now we’re afraid we may have to do another increase in prices but the trick is timing so gas is up, food is up, paper goods are up, it’s all going up,” said Dolch.

RELATED: US inflation reached a new 40-year high last month

Crawford said with costs continuing to increase for everyone, it’s no surprise prices are too.

“Everybody understands that that’s what has to happen so if you have to spend more money you have to make more money,” said Crawford.

With labor costs up 35% across the state, local restaurants are working harder than they ever have before to stay afloat.

The minimum wage in Connecticut will increase one more time next year through Public Act 19-4, going up to $15 on June 1, 2023.

Lindsey Kane is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at Lkane@fox61.com. Follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram


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