STILLWATER, Minn.—With its waitress and single cook, its retro-style booths with pale green cushions and its stainless steel wrap-around countertop, the Oasis Cafe could be any local diner in any town in the Midwest.
But what makes the Oasis Cafe different is an extra 35-cent “minimum wage fee” tacked onto each patron’s check.
A patron recently posted a photo of a receipt on Facebook and complained about the fee. The photo quickly went viral, and soon, the Oasis Cafe found itself in the center of the national debate over the minimum wage.
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and others talked about it on TV. NBC’s “Today” show did a segment. And thousands weighed in through social media.
All because the Minnesota Legislature voted in May to raise the minimum wage to $8 per hour immediately and to $9.50 by 2017. That won praise from progressives coast-to-coast, including the White House, which is pushing for a $10.10 minimum wage at the federal level.
Oasis Cafe added an extra 35-cent “minimum wage fee” onto each patron’s check.
But the higher minimum wage means higher costs for many businesses in Minnesota, hitting small restaurants and other mom-and-pop shops particularly hard. This is the point Craig Beemer, owner of Oasis, is trying to make with his fee.
Beemer told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he intended to draw attention to the added costs, but he doesn’t see himself as a political activist even though the higher wage mandate will cost him $10,000 this year.
“I’m not some (tea party) guy making a big stand,” he told the paper last week. “It’s been pretty shocking how this thing has blown up.“