Since 1933, the intersection of four North Denver neighborhoods has been home to Billy’s Inn, a neighborhood fixture for 75 years. Opening one year before the venerable Bonnie Brae Tavern but 40 years after Buckhorn Exchange, Billy’s Inn has a noble history. Billy and Judy Smith opening the bar in a former service station in 1933 and sold it in 1950 to a partnership of Frank Weiner and Lionel Zinn who ran it until 1956. Most recent owner James Von Feldt’s in-laws operated the business until early 1986. Van Feldt ran the watering hole for more than 20 years and sold the business and property to Larimer Associates in 2008. The building underwent a thorough and complete renovation with the addition of a new patio and continues to be a Denver mainstay.
Kitchen Equitable Wage Fee – A Word From the Owners
For the past several years we – along with virtually all restaurants – have struggled with a growing problem: the increasing disparity in earnings between our tipped employees and non-tipped employees, with tipped employees easily earning twice as much, and no end in sight to the widening of the gap.
Here’s why: every time we have to raise menu prices to cover inflation and government-mandated Minimum Wage increases, tipped employees actually receive two pay increases – first, in their base pay and second, in the amount they receive in gratuities, since these are based on a percentage of the increased prices. Non-tipped employees already earn well above the Minimum Wage, so the mandated increases only benefit the tipped employees. Every time we increase menu prices to cover the increase in costs, the gap in wages just gets wider. As owners, we are obligated to address the problem, as it is not only inequitable, but unsustainable.
We have implemented a 6% Kitchen Equitable Wage Fee to our guest bills. This fee, though relatively small, has a huge impact, as it closes most of the wage gap. This has been positively transformative to the lives of our non-tipped employees and their families, an outcome for which we are truly grateful.
We know that some people will ask, “Why don’t you just raise your prices instead of charging this fee?” As explained above, raising menu prices just exacerbates the problem, as increasing menu prices results in increased gratuities so the gap just widens. The Kitchen Equitable Wage Fee technically is just a price increase, but it is a transparent one in its specific use to close the gap between tipped and non-tipped employees. To really work, guests should adjust their gratuity accordingly. We believe this to be a fair, effective and sustainable approach, and thank you for helping us make the compensation more equitable for all of the people who work together to serve you.
We are local, independent restauranteurs who live in and love the neighborhoods and people we serve. We take our craft of hospitality seriously and are grateful both for the privilege of serving you and for being able to provide meaningful, rewarding work for members of our community.