A new restaurant is banning tips, but tacking on a ‘cost-of-living’ surcharge

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Today: a restaurant that bans tips, layoffs, potential job losses and a new Clinton/Trump poll.

What we’re talking about

Kathleen Pierce lays out why a new Portland restaurant won’t ask diners for tips, but will charge them extra so the owner can pay her staff $15 an hour.

When grab-and-go cafe Baristas and Bites opens in the Old Port in mid-October, customers will notice a new item on their bill: a cost-of-living surcharge.

“This is risky and different,” said Amy Alward, owner of Love Kupcakes Inc., who will open her new establishment serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, with the goal of paying full-time employees $15 per hour.

By offering reasonably priced rotisserie chicken meals and discounts through a loyalty program, Alward expects high-volume sales to reduce the markup on goods like organic produce that gets passed onto customers. She intends to tack on an 11.2 percent charge, based on the bill’s total, to pay employees a living wage.

She plans to offer employees a retirement package, paid time off and health insurance — sweeteners restaurant gigs can often lack. “We’re hoping our loyal patrons will understand that it’s expensive to be in Portland, to live in Portland, but we need and want to be here,” said Alward, who says she has sunk seven figures into the rebrand of her cupcake business and the new concept she is building at 469 Fore St.

Read her full story here.


Mercy Hospital cuts jobs — Mercy Hospital has laid off 31 workers across various departments, the hospital announced Tuesday. And another 47 people accepted early retirement packages that were offered to 99 employees in July.

The hospital, which employs roughly 1,500 people, said that the layoffs were of administrative, facilities and clinical staff. “A handful of nurses” took buyout packages and no doctor’s jobs were eliminated, said spokesman Wayne Clark.

Mercy will be closing its campus in Portland’s West End upon completion of an $80 million to $100 million expansion of its other location along Fore River Parkway in 2018, the Press Herald reported in 2014.

The job cuts were necessary to “fit market demands,” Clark said, adding that they are part of a shift in which services the hospital prioritizes. He declined to specify further.  

“While it is difficult to see colleagues leave, it is necessary if we are to realize our vision of a strong Mercy Hospital,” said Clark. “We plan to be around a long time, another 100 years at least.”  — Jake Bleiberg

LePage says Fairchild sale will lead to the job cuts he predicted in April — Christopher Cousins paraphrases Gov. Paul LePage’s statements during his weekly radio appearance today on WVOM: “told ya so.”

“I’ve known about the semiconductor since last April where I sort of hinted there was going to be some major employers leaving,” said LePage. “The likelihood of them leaving, it’s unfortunately, is a high probability.”

Fairchild Semiconductor employs more than 600 people in South Portland. After his prediction that Maine would lose 900 jobs this summer, LePage revised his estimate later in April and said the job losses this year could reach 1,500.

The long-expected sale was announced yesterday, but it wasn’t immediately clear how it would affect the South Portland plant.

The city is giving a biotech firm $375,000 in tax breaks to expand — Randy Billings reports that the City Council voted to give the breaks to ImmuCell without forcing the company to agree to the restrictions Mayor Ethan Strimling recently proposed regarding who the company could hire for the expansion, and how much it would have to pay them.

He reports:

Councilor and Economic Development Committee Chairman David Brenerman said the tax break was the only incentive the city could offer to keep the company in Maine. Most of its business is in the Midwest.

“To me, we should be celebrating the fact that ImmuCell wants to stay here and expand here,” Brenerman said.

Strimling opposed the agreement because he believes that so-called responsible contracting rules should be required when public money is being used. But he also didn’t think that ImmuCell truly needed the public funds to move forward with the project.

The Big Idea

Trump draws even with Clinton in new Maine pollMike Shepherd reports: “Hillary Clinton is in danger of being the first Democrat to lose Maine in a presidential election since 1988, with a poll released Tuesday showing her tied statewide with Republican Donald Trump.”

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who first moved to Portland in 2002. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.