New Year kicks off with Washington state minimum wage increase

If the last day of 2020 had a beat, it’s the sound of a man drumming Thursday afternoon along the Seattle waterfront. A tourist spot where Ivar’s has been a staple for generations.

But during a pandemic every single order along Pier 54 is crucial at a time when around 2400 restaurants have already permanently closed in the state.

Related: Minimum wage to increase in Washington state to $13.69 in 2021

"In this afternoon’s payroll we will have 420 employees," Ivar’s President Bob Donegan said.

Donegan is a numbers guy and he knows the current staffing level is the lowest he’s had in decades.

Another change is around the corner because starting in the New Year, the minimum wage in Seattle goes up in different increments depending on the size of the company.

"So the minimum wage for Seattle going to $16.69 has no effect on us we are already above that," Donegan said.

Donegan says it’s a way to keep employees long term.

 But it’s a different story for smaller businesses who may be hanging by a thread just to keep alive.

Ivar’s employee Bernard Shaw says things are just tough all around but he says the minimum wage increase will help a lot of people especially servers who aren’t bringing the tips in like they used to.

"Getting extras added to their hourly helps with their families," Shaw said.

Right next to the Ivar’s pick up is their dine-in restaurant, Acres of Clams which is temporarily closed.

"We had 280 employees working Acres of Clams, today we have none that’s because we have no inside dining," Donegan said.

For Ivar’s, the minimum wage increase may have no impact but the state extending restrictions for things like indoor dining is a big deal.

"Everything that could go wrong went wrong in 2020 so we are happy to see it in the rearview mirror," Donegan said.

Hoping for a better future for Donegan means he just wants the past back.

"Three hundred twenty thousand workers working downtown again, 1.2 million people visiting on cruise ships, the convention center open," Donegan said.