In restaurant closing, minimum wage makes for convenient scapegoat

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post lamented that today’s workers are “ghosting” their employers. They just stop coming to work. No notice. The nerve.

Fast forward to what happened in Boston Thursday when the owner of the oldest restaurant in the city, Durgin-Park, a Boston institution since 1827, gave his loyal workers 10 days notice that they’d soon be out of work.

“It shouldn’t go under,” said Gina Schertzer, the head waitress who has worked at the restaurant since 1976, in a phone interview with the Boston Globe. “I thought this place was going to be alive longer than I’d be alive.”

She’s 76. How’s that for loyalty?

In another fit of disloyalty, the manager blamed the minimum wage the employees dare earned.

There’s a lot of that in the restaurant business; we saw the same thing in Minnesota when smoking was banned. Restaurants that weren’t very good at being restaurants closed, their owners citing the smoking ban, because why not deliver one more political cheap shot?

We’ll see it again in 2022 when St. Paul’s minimum wage goes to $15.

But the Globe tells the real story, even if it decided to include the minimum wage angle at the top:

“There’s plumbers here every day, there’s heating guys here every day,” [Bartender Richelle Mazzone] said. “That’s where it goes instead of going in your pocket as profit.”

John Bell, who has worked nine years waiting tables and bartending at Durgin-Park, said he enjoyed seeing customers who have come to the restaurant for decades.

“You feel connected to some of the people, it’s just the experience of the place,” said Bell, a Quincy native.

Bell said the restaurant had not been keeping up with industry trends. Ciders, for instance, have become popular, but the bar did not carry a popular cider brand until the past year, he said. Sour beers have been trendy for more than a year, but the bar just got on board last month, he added.

In short: it was mismanaged.

But the minimum wage (it went up to $12 only four days ago) — and the employees — make for a convenient punching bag for managements that just can’t figure out why employees aren’t more loyal these days.