Restaurant Workers, Owners Reopen Debate on Eliminating Maryland’s Tipped Wage

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Service workers and restaurant owners who say tipped employees have been left behind in Maryland’s recent minimum wage increase renewed a fight this week to end the state’s $3.63 tipped wage. The legislation they’re backing — which stalled a year ago and faces an uphill battle again in the General Assembly this year — would prohibit employers from paying workers the special lower-tier wage, which is allowed as long as those earnings combined with customers’ tips match or exceed the $15 state minimum wage.

The debate: Eliminating the tipping system has remained controversial, even among workers. Some fear the raised base wage would lead to fewer tips and less overall pay. Dozens of such workers and business owners testified on both sides of the bill Thursday. A business owner from Frederick, Greg Brown of Brewer’s Alley, said he would be forced to raise menu prices 35 to 40 percent, implement a service fee and lay off employees to fill what he claimed would be a $1.4 million annual hole.

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