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Blue Plate special: Restaurant group drops tip charge after blowback

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The Blue Barn is food stand at the State Fair.
The Blue Plate Restaurant Company said Wednesday it is rolling back a controversial fee it charged to waitstaff for tips paid with credit cards.
Tim Nelson / MPR News

A Twin Cities restaurant group that drew fire for reducing its employees' tips to make up for a hike in the minimum wage is reversing course.

• Read the news release below

The Blue Plate Restaurant Company runs eight full service restaurants in the Twin Cities. They include the Highland Grill, the Groveland Tap, the Edina Grill, the Longfellow Grill, 3 Squares, Scuzi, the Lowry and the Freehouse. They are also opening a new restaurant at the State Fair tomorrow.

This month, Blue Plate raised its prices slightly and also started deducting credit card fees from waitstaff tips, estimated to be about 2 percent of their tips. The company said the Affordable Care Act and Minnesota's new minimum wage law would cost the company more than $1 million.

The tip change sparked a wave of criticism, and came at the same time a Stillwater restaurant started adding 35 cent minimum wage 'fees' to every check.

Owner David Burley says Blue Plate has dropped the controversial charge, and will also raise the pay for non-tipped staff to $9.69 an hour starting September 1. That's a premium above the state's current 8 dollar an hour minimum wage, which went into effect Aug. 1. 

"We live in the neighborhoods we serve, and we are in the restaurants daily," co-owner Stephanie Shimp said in a statement released this morning. "It's important that we listen to and learn from guests comments."

Read the news release