Illinois business owners adjust to steady increase in hourly minimum wage

Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 9:43 PM CST
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GALENA, Illinois (KCRG) - In his new stimulus package, President Joe Biden is proposing an increase in the federal minimum wage.

The proposal would more than double it to $15 an hour. That plan would be phased in over five years, but in Illinois the state minimum wage just increased this year to $11.

The Gold Room Bar and Grill is a small mom and pop shop in Galena’s Main Street. Its proprietor, Rory MacDonald, said his goal is to keep his customers’ drinks as cheap as possible.

“They show up here and if, a shot of Jameson is $5, they are like, ‘Wow, it is $11 in Chicago’,” he said. “They are happy as clams.”

But with hourly minimum wage steadily increasing in Illinois, he said he has had to make some pricing alterations.

“We made a point of keeping the beers at $2, which is super reasonable,” MacDonald explained. “The things we did have to raise to offset that, food did have to go up and especially during COVID, like cheese, meat, that went way up, so a dollar here, a dollar there.”

MacDonald said he has to raise those prices to make sure his employees can at least make their $11 per hour .

Down the street in Kaladi’s Coffee Bar, barista Bailey Sheehan said the increase in wage can be very attractive to people from Dubuque, like himself.

“For the people in Dubuque who are making $7.25, if you come over to Illinois and you make 3 or 4 dollars more, it is definitely a plus.”

Sheehan said there currently are job openings where people could be earning this kind of money, but he said businesses need the relief package.

“It is hard to fill your staff when you are not getting, like, how they got the stimulus for businesses,” he mentioned. “If we do not have that money to support the employees, then we cannot do anything for renters or anything like that.”

Illinois is expected to continue increasing its minimum wage until reaching $15 in 2025.

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