To the Editor:
In less than a year, my team and I opened four restaurants in Leesburg. But all of our businesses are at risk of closing if Ballot Amendment 2 passes in November.
Ballot Amendment 2 mandates a $15 minimum wage across the state of Florida. And while a pay raise sounds good, the reality is that Ballot Amendment 2 will kill jobs, close businesses and destroy our economy. A wage hike like this would most likely put me, and other small and family-owned businesses across our state, out of business for good.
A few years ago, I moved to Florida from California. The high taxes and burdensome regulations in California made it impossible for a small business to be successful. I chose Leesburg because the community was welcoming and the state offered a business-friendly climate.
Since then, we’ve opened up four restaurants in the area. I’m proud to serve my neighbors with good food, great beer and a unique atmosphere. I’m especially proud of the jobs we’ve created in this region. At the start of this year, we had over 40 employees.
Then COVID-19 hit. And like many other businesses in our state and across our nation, we’ve struggled to make ends meet. I was forced to cut hours and lay off employees. But the community has been generous, and with dine-in and carry-out customers, we’re slowly building back. As we recover, I’m trying to bring back every employee I can.
Ballot Amendment 2 would shatter our road to recovery. It would not just slow our comeback, it would bring our business to a screeching halt. If Ballot Amendment 2 passes, the cost of operating our restaurants would go up 20% every year. By 2026, that’s a 100 percent increase in payroll. There’s no way we – or any other small business – can afford that.
The $15 minimum wage scheme has already failed in large cities across the nation. Cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C., have struggled after mandating a $15 minimum wage. Many businesses closed, and many businesses changed their pricing model to bring in more revenue and get by with less help. They added a service charge to cover the increase in labor costs, but that left servers without tips. Tipped employees who were previously taking home more than $15 an hour are now making less.
Workers in those cities were lucky to have a job at all because many were left without jobs after a $15 wage was mandated. Here in Florida, we’re expected to lose 158,000 jobs if Ballot Amendment 2 passes, according to an independent economic analysis.
We’ve already lost hundreds of thousands of jobs during COVID-19. I can’t imagine leaving hundreds of thousands more Floridians without a job to provide for their families.
Help keep our small businesses alive and help get Floridians back to work. Vote no on Ballot Amendment 2.
Alberto “A.C.” Cisneros
Owner of The Brick & Barrel Public House, The Pint Sized Pub, Main Street Cantina and Mammoth Oak Brewing Company, all in Leesburg.