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November 27, 2012

Battle Lines Drawn in Skinny Pancake Livable Wage Controversy

Skinny pancake logo 2Skinny Pancake owner Benjamin Adler says that if he paid a "livable wage" to employees working at his airport restaurants, he'd have to charge $20 for a sandwich. "No restaurant pays their dishwasher $17.71 an hour," he tells Seven Days. "It's not sustainable."

Adler was reacting Tuesday to an avalanche of outrage prompted by a Burlington Free Press article, which reported that Burlington's mayor and board of finance had approved the Skinny Pancake's request for an unusual exemption from the city's livable wage ordinance. Burlington's ordinance requires that city employees and contractors receiving taxpayer funds pay workers a "livable" wage — presently $13.94 an hour, or $17.71 an hour if health insurance is not provided — unless they received a hardship exemption.

Adler lobbied for a hardship exemption and city officials approved one because Skinny Pancake says it would lose money on the airport venture otherwise. One reason for the special treatment: The Skinny Pancake and its sister restaurant, the Chubby Muffin, source almost all of their meat, cheese and vegetables from Vermont farmers and food producers. Adler estimates his restaurants spend $400,000 a year purchasing Vermont-grown foods — and will spend an additional $250,000 buying local food for the airport cafes.

Click here to read the rest of this story on Off Message, the Seven Days news and politics blog.

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