Despite pleas from business owners to postpone the next phase of the city's minimum wage hike until after the pandemic, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock's office confirmed that the city will raise wages to $14.77 on Jan. 1, as scheduled.
City leaders met last week with stakeholders, including the Colorado Restaurant Association, to deliver the decision, which is estimated to impact more than 50,000 Denver workers.
Last year, Hancock and City Councilwoman At-Large Robin Kniech pushed forward a bill that raised the minimum wage for workers in Denver, beginning in 2020. Wages will rise from $12.85 an hour this year to $14.77 next year, then again to $15.87 in 2022, with annual adjustments made each year thereafter.
The offices of Hancock and Kniech issued a joint statement Monday in light of the decision:
"While recognizing the challenges to businesses throughout the COVID pandemic, as co-sponsors of the minimum wage increase adopted by City Council in 2019, Mayor Hancock and Councilwoman Kniech intend to keep the planned minimum wage increase in place and will not advance a council action to delay. This was not an easy decision, but as our economy recovers – and we know it will – we don’t want to leave behind our minimum wage workers, who are often frontline workers in the pandemic and disproportionately women and people of color. Putting additional dollars into the hands of workers also provides an economic stimulus by increasing their ability to spend.
"The city has and will continue to support small, local businesses with financial relief, creative patio expansion programs, and other assistance to help them stay in business, and we're encouraged by efforts to expand relief at the state level as well. But as we have emphasized before, only federal relief can meet the full scale of the economic challenges faced by businesses and working families in Denver and across our nation."
The Colorado Restaurant Association has been "imploring" the city to delay the minimum wage until at least 2022, after restaurant owners have a chance to recover from the pandemic.
"We were extremely disappointed to learn that the Denver City Council has no interest in delaying the minimum wage hike set to take effect on January 1, 2021," Sonia Riggs, the president and CEO of the CRA, told Colorado Politics in an email Monday. "Restaurants are grappling with a 100-year pandemic — the most challenging crisis they've faced in living memory. 24% of restaurants are under threat of imminent closure thanks to the indoor dining shutdown, and 60% may not make it three months.
"Consider all the staff restaurants are ALREADY being forced to cut," she wrote. "A minimum wage hike will just exacerbate the problem. Council should be doing everything it can do relieve this burden and keep people employed. Instead they're doubling down on making it more challenging for restaurants to survive."