Denver restaurateurs seek to stop wage increase

DENVER A group of rural restaurant owners filed a motion in Denver District Court on Thursday seeking a preliminary injunction against a 3.7-percent increase to the state’s minimum wage next year.

Colorado’s minimum wage is expected to increase in January to $7.28 per hour and the cash wage for tipped employees to $4.26 per hour. The jumps are tied to the rate increase of the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, for the Denver-Boulder-Greeley region of Colorado, which is the state’s most populous area. The rural restaurateurs are suing the state for applying that index rather than creating an index that would represent the entire state. The motion asks the court to put an injunction on the wage increase until the plaintiffs’ case can be tried.

The restaurant owners argue that using a CPI that does not include rural areas is unfair and puts a hardship on businesses, said Jan Rigg, a spokeswoman for the plaintiffs who run restaurants in Pueblo, Gunnison, Crested Butte, Salida, Sedalia, La Junta, Lima and Yuma, Colo.

According to the lawsuit first filed in August, the restaurant owners have had to raise menu prices, decrease staff hours, layoff workers and reduce or eliminate employee benefits because of increased labor costs.

State voters had approved tying the minimum wage increases to the CPI in a 2006 amendment to the state’s constitution. Colorado is one of 10 states that have tied wage increases to inflate rates.