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Lethbridge pub owner considers cutting staff by 50% to combat minimum wage hike

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WATCH ABOVE: A Lethbridge business owner says the minimum wage hike in Alberta will crush his business, and says it has him rethinking how he’ll staff his restaurants. Global’s Kimberly Tams reports – Aug 3, 2016

Scott Crighton has spent 15 years working at seven pubs and employs more than 200 staff at his establishments. But when the Alberta government increased the minimum wage in 2015, he immediately cut his staff by five per cent—and says he might go down to half the number of employees rather than having customers pay more for food.

“We cut our kitchen hours, we cut when we are open, we tried to train staff to have more tables. This next increase is almost too much to absorb,” Crighton said.

By October 2018, the NDP will hike the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

READ MORE: Alberta minimum wage going up on October 1

“We are thinking of doing what other countries have done and removing service all together,” he said. “So if we were to go to that route, we could reduce our staff by over 50 per cent.”

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Crighton is furious with the government’s decision and is ready to move towards self-ordering with limited service.

“If we went to limited service, we would remove all service from the table. We would make sure it was visible that this is not a full service bar,” he said.

Crighton said customers could go to the bar to order food and drinks. He said there would be delivery of food, but with a facilitator who would also clean tables.

“If you want a glass of water, you go up to the bar and get it,” he said.

READ MORE: Small business group petitions against Alberta minimum wage hike

The MLA for Lethbridge East calls the possibility of removing servers selfish.

“It’s sad and disappointing a business would rather have a greater profit margin than keeping people employed at a wage where they can afford food and pay for a roof over their head. Certainly $15 an hour is not extravagant,” Maria Fitzpatrick said.

But according to Crighton, what’s extravagant is the minimum wage hike. He said his ultimate goal is to keep his businesses viable.

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