The Ithaca Commons. (Jeff Lower/Ithaca Voice)

ITHACA, N.Y. — Area Democrats have called on the Tompkins County Legislature to pass a law that would seek to make a $14.34 “living wage” the statutory minimum wage in Tompkins County.

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A resolution approved by more than 70 members of the Tompkins County Democratic Committee called for a 4-year phase-in of the increase from the current minimum wage of $8.75.

Related: Ithaca considers pushing for $14 minimum wage in Tompkins County

Restaurant owners in the Ithaca area appear split on the issue of the $14.34 Living Wage.

Here’s what three had to say in interviews:

1 — Kava Bar owner

According to Avigdor Weber, owner of Mystic Water Kava Bar & Yoga Studio, places like Walmart can afford this raise in the Living Wage.

But Weber cautioned that smaller restaurants would be unable to afford the higher wages and could be forced out of business.

“There is not a restaurant in Ithaca that can afford to pay their servers $15 an hour. If you pay your server $15 an hour, how much are you going to pay your electrician? How much are you going to pay your plumber? It squeezes the smaller restaurants out of the game,” Weber said.

2 — Ethiopian Restaurant owner

Citra Mohammed, co-owner of the Ethiopian Restaurant “Hawi,” said he was happy to hear the news.

“It was a little shocking at first, but it’s something expected as it seems like the whole nation is moving towards a higher wage. This is a very good thing, as more families will be able to provide for their kids a better life. I was happy to hear about the idea of raising minimum wage when I was an employee less than a year ago and I am still happy as an employer to now hear Ithaca is heading there,” Mohammed said.

According to Mohammed, “the more money people have, the more the money will be able to circulate in the community, which is beneficial to everybody.”

3 — Mercato owner

Eric Trichon, owner of Mercato and Café Cent-Dix, said he finds the issue “very touchy.”

“It’s not easy to live on $9 an hour, but there are also certain skills involved with making more money. There’s also like working hard, being on time, wanting to get better. There has to be some kind of incentive, you can’t just set the bar high and then just pay people,” Trichon said.

Trichon wonders if restaurants should raise their prices if the servers’ Living Wage has gone up and if the clients will be willing to pay more money for food because the State is mandating an increase in the wages.

He also wonders if the increase in the wages will result in more competition for the same positions. He is willing to pay servers more if this will have a positive impact on the quality of their work.

“It stinks because everyone deserves to live somewhat comfortably… have enough money to pay the bills and have a family. I’m not the one to say that this is wrong. I’m all for paying people more as long as the bar is raised a little bit,” Trichon said.

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