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New bill would offer some restaurant exemptions to California’s $20 minimum wage bill

AB 610 would carve out eight new exemptions from the definition of ‘fast food restaurant’

Thanks to a proposed bill, there may be a few exemptions to California’s new $20 minimum wage that’s set to take effect April 1.

AB 610, introduced by Assemblymember Chris Holden, would carve out eight new exemptions from the definition of “fast food restaurant,” including “restaurants in airports, hotels, event centers, theme parks, museums, and certain other locations.”

This increases the exemptions from restaurants that bake their bread (like Panera) and certain restaurants in grocery stores to a wider array of restaurants.

Some of the murkier exemptions include restaurants located in office buildings, a group of buildings, or a campus “primarily or exclusively by a single, for-profit corporation and its affiliates” that “primarily or exclusively serves employees of that corporation or its affiliates rather than the general public” and is “part of, or subject to, a concession or food service contract covering the building, group of buildings, or campus.”

Also included in these exemptions are restaurants located on land owned by the state, city, or county, including on land like a public beach, public pier, state park, or historic district, as well as restaurants operated with a concession agreement or food service contract.

When the FAST Act was repealed in Sept. 2023, the restaurant industry breathed a sigh of relief. The bill was set to not only increase minimum wage, but also establish a Fast Food Council that would set wages and employment standards for the industry. The bill was pushed to a ballot referendum in Nov. 2024 when the restaurant industry gathered enough support against the bill.

That’s when Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) created AB 1228, which, among other things, would create a state-wide $20 minimum wage for “fast food” workers beginning April 1, 2024.

If AB 610 is enacted as proposed, the exemptions would take place immediately.

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