Calgary restaurant drops ‘small business support’ fee after receiving threatening emails, phone calls

A "small business support fee" seen on a Calgary restaurant bill. Reddit user staaygold_

A downtown Calgary restaurant is being forced to rethink its attempt to offset rising costs.

On Oct. 1, Minas Brazillian Steakhouse started adding a “small business support” fee, a four per cent surcharge to customers’ bills.

Owner Carolina Lopez described the fee as an attempt “to create awareness and show our customers the challenges small businesses are dealing with,” particularly the recent hike in minimum wage, which the Alberta government recently increased to $13.60 per hour.

READ MORE: Alberta minimum wage set to increase Sunday, becoming highest in Canada

The fee generated a lot of discussion online after a photo of a receipt was posted to social news aggregation site Reddit.

Lopez said the restaurant dropped the surcharge on Oct. 6 because of the negative backlash.

Story continues below advertisement

Lopez said while the fee generated a lot of positive discussion about the challenges facing small businesses, she wasn’t prepared for “the inappropriate calls,  emails and cruel comments directed at the restaurant, herself and her staff,” particularly by some people who weren’t customers and had never been to the restaurant.

Watch below from Oct. 5:  Gil Tucker reports on the fee that some find pretty hard to swallow.

Click to play video: 'Calgary restaurant brings in controversial new surcharge'
Calgary restaurant brings in controversial new surcharge

While Lopez said the fee was optional, it did not say that on the bill.

Mary O’Sullivan-Andersen, president & CEO of Southern Alberta (and East Kootenay) Better Business Bureau said the fact the word “optional” is not on the menu could be misleading.

She said the bill should clearly indicate it’s optional so patrons know they’re not required to pay it.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Economists dispute report suggesting Alberta minimum wage hike will cost 25K jobs

Lopez said it’s hard to say if the decision to charge the small business support fee affected business, because there were some people who came to eat at the restaurant just because they heard about it on the news.

They have also had some feedback from people who are in the restaurant business who said they have also had to increase their prices.

Asked if Minas will do the same, Lopez said the restaurant needs to think very thoroughly what its next steps will be.

The Oct. 1 increase to $13.60 per hour is part of the Alberta goverment’s three-year plan to eventually increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018.

With files from Global’s Jodi Hughes

Sponsored content