Restaurant owners ask lawmakers to consider regional minimum wage bill


    Restaurant owners ask lawmakers to consider regional minimum wage bill (Rachel Droze)

    Across from the Illinois Governor's mansion, you'll find Loukinens' on Fourth.

    The restaurant opened in October 2017, but owners Kevin and Laurie Loukinen are concerned a $15 minimum wage hike could force them to close their doors.

    “If I increase minimum wage at $15 an hour, then I have to increase supervisor pay, then I have to increase manager pay, then I have to match all the payroll taxes that go with that and all the property taxes that go with that,” Laurie Loukinen said.

    Laurie Loukinen said she once asked Gov. JB Pritzker to not harm her business while he was eating at her restaurant with his wife.

    “He was in this very dining room and I said, 'Just tell me you're going to do a good job and that you're not going to kill me as a business for the sake of Chicago,' and he stood right here in my dining room and he said, 'I will not do that to you,'” Laurie Loukinen said. “And I take Governor Pritzker at his word.”

    Laurie Loukinen asked the governor to go to the legislature and make sure they're thinking about central and southern Illinois when making this decision.

    She also made a plea of her own to lawmakers.

    “You guys are the ones that come to us every day,” Laurie Loukinen said. "You guys are the ones we feed and care for way past the hours of when we have closed.”

    The Loukinen's are in favor of raising the minimum wage in Illinois.

    "I think there should be an increase in minimum wage," Kevin Loukinen said.

    And they understand Chicago represents a large portion of the state's population.

    "I can respect whatever Chicago needs,” Laurie Loukinen said.

    But Laurie Loukinen asked lawmakers to remember there’s life outside of the Windy City.

    "Let Chicago bear that burden and the rest of us, find a way to respect who we are too,” Laurie Loukinen said.

    The Loukinen’s aren’t alone in their thinking.

    Business leaders from several different industries were at the Capitol Monday urging lawmakers to amend the proposed $15 minimum wage bill. They’d like to see a regional component put in, so the cost of living is factored in when figuring out the breakdown of the minimum wage.

    Karen Conn, CEO of Conn's Hospitality Group, which owns several businesses, including Obed and Isaac's, said if this bill passes as is, prices on her menus will have to go up.

    She plans to testify at the House committee hearing Wednesday to urge lawmakers to consider a regional approach to this bill.

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