Minimum wage goes up, some business owners have to adjust

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - With Prop. 206 in its second year, minimum wage across the state went up at the start of 2018 to $10.50/hour. In 2016, it was $8.05/hour; in 2017, it was $10/hour.

Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria is just one of the many places around town where some people got a raise at the beginning of the new year. Rocco DiGrazia, the owner, wasn't in favor of the wage increase when it was on the ballot in 2016. However, after it passed, he still wanted to make sure he took care of his employees.

Heading into 2017, he didn't want to lay anyone off, so he anticipated he'd have to raise some of his prices and watch his scheduling very carefully.

In an interview with KGUN9 on Dec. 29, 2016, DiGrazia said, "I'm going to look very carefully at overtime. That simply isn't going to happen."

KGUN9's Max Darrow checked in with him again on Thursday, a year later, to see how the year went. On both fronts, DiGrazia was right. While overtime was inevitable at times, he says it only happens when necessary.

"I'm a little more strict," he said. "It's not like a normally scheduled thing any longer, that's for sure."

Now, he feels he has to put more of an emphasis on the restaurant's bar than he'd like to. However, he says alcohol sales played a big role in keeping profits up in 2017. Overall, his profits this year were about the same as last years.

"It was okay, yeah," he said. "It wasn't bad. But the alcohol sales definitely helped."

Jennifer Newman owns the ice cream shop Cashew Cow. In an interview with KGUN9 on Dec. 29, 2016, she explained she wasn't worried about the wage increase because she already paid her employees enough. As for this year's pay increase?

"It didn't make any difference at all, in terms of my paying them," Newman said.

While it hasn't had a big effect on her, she added she could understand how the continued wage increase poses problems for other local business owners. By 2020, the minimum wage will be at $12/hour. While it may be tough to adjust to it, Newman believes it's necessary.

"As the cost of living increases, something has to be done with paying people so that they can survive," Newman said.

In 2019, the minimum wage will go up to $11/hr.

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