Workers: Customers confused about tipping after Initiative 77 passed by voters

- Initiative 77 has been approved by D.C. voters, but it is not law just yet. However, workers in the service industry said it is already having a negative impact on their bottom line.

Initiative 77 would require restaurants and bars to pay tipped employees a minimum wage of $12.50 an hour. That would increase over the next few years until reaching $15 per hour by 2020.

However, some servers and bartenders in the hospitality industry said many diners think it is already in place and are no longer tipping.

“People are coming in and they are like, ‘Oh, congrats on your raise,’ and they feel like since I’m making $15 an hour, they don't need to tip,” said D.C. bartender Alex Bejean. “But I'm not making $15 an hour.”

“I’ve seen notes on credit card slips [saying], ‘Hey, congratulations on 77,’ and then no tip on the line,” said Ryan Aston, a D.C. bartender and member of the Board of Directors for Restaurant Workers of America. “The proponents of this law said that it’s supposed to be $15 [an hour] with tips on top. So that seems like a lot of uniformed people.”

Both Bejean and Aston said while they have noticed a difference, there will always be people who do not tip no matter what. Figuring out who is leaving the tip line blank specifically because of Initiative 77 can be tricky, but they are urging customers to talk to their bartenders and servers to get a better understanding of how they will be impacted.

“Some people don’t tip and you just have to take the good with the bad,” said Bejean. “But the good has been pushed back a little bit because of this.”

She added, “Ask your bartenders, ask you servers how they feel about it.”

Initiative 77 has been highly debated on both sides. Opponents of the measure said it would cut jobs and lead to service charges to customers. Supporters said servers and bartenders will no longer have to depend on tips for their income.

While they await the D.C. Council's decision on how to move forward in regards to Initiative 77, it seems clear some in the service industry are feeling the impact.

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