Denver Colorado 16th Street Mall

A view of Denver's landmark 16th Street Mall.

As Denver prepares to raise its minimum wage, the Colorado Restaurant Association threatens to take the city to court.

Mayor Michael Hancock and Councilwoman Robin Kniech have proposed that Denver’s minimum wage rise to $13.80 per hour on Jan. 1, higher than the state’s minimum wage by $1.80. Denver’s wage would then increase to $15.87 in 2021.

A series of town hall meetings have occurred since the September announcement. A state law passed this year gives localities the ability to pass minimum wage increases in excess of the state’s rate. Denver’s change would affect approximately 100,000 residents.

However, the association argues that the state law doesn’t take effect until 2020, making any ordinance passed in 2019 a violation. 

The Denver Post reports that Hancock’s office takes a different interpretation of the law.

Restaurateurs also claim that the city’s engagement process has fallen short of what is necessary for such a policy change.

“I would describe this as a misleading and disparaging letter, and it’s deeply disappointing,” Kniech said. “The association failed to identify that they personally have attended at least three town halls … and participated, gave feedback.”

In 2016, the Colorado Restaurant Association opposed Amendment 70, the statewide ballot measure to increase the minimum wage. A campaign flier foreshadowed reduced hours, slashed benefits, and fewer employees.

“This amendment with large, dramatic increases requires drastic action on the part of businesses, threatening jobs across the state,” it read.

Last month, the association told The Denver Channel that 200 restaurants opened in Denver this year, a higher number than the year before.

(2) comments


Other than the number of new restaurants opening, it would be interesting to know to what degree any new businesses are staffed. Does the wage requirement lead to a diminished staff to offset the higher wage? Is the staffing similar to what was seen prior to the wage mandate? Other cities have seen cuts in staff and hours to accommodate the wage mandate.


It would be very important to investigate and note how many restaurants closed as well.

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