An Open Letter to Dino Venti, Owner of Venti's

A copy of this letter was left in the comment box at Venti's Taphouse on 16 Oct 2015.

Hi Mr. Venti -

We're John and Laura Jacobs Anderson. You probably don't know who we are, but as regular customers of Venti's Taphouse, we wanted to let you know we're extremely disappointed with the stance you've taken on the transport funding initiative that's on the ballot this election. We're disappointed enough that our patronage of your restaurants is going to be significantly curtailed, if not outright eliminated. We'd rather spend our discretionary income at an establishment that believes in contributing to Salem's infrastructure, rather than one that wants to avoid this responsibility.

A few words about us: we've been regulars at Venti's Taphouse since we moved to Salem 3 years ago. When we say "regulars", we mean it: we've been there almost every Friday for 3 years straight. On one memorable occasion, when we weren't able to make our usual Friday reservation, the hostess called us to make sure everything was okay. Ask your Friday evening crew about "the Andersons", or ask your social media team about @genehack and @MrsGenehack - they all know who we are!

In addition to our regular Friday evening meal there, John has frequently hosted business lunches at the Taphouse, and any time we have an out-of-town guest, we have made sure to take them to Venti's. We've made several great friends from people who we met while they were working at Venti's. After visiting from Kansas, John's dad even made Venti's branded growler carriers! In short, we have been dedicated patrons, and we're very sorry that your position on this transportation issue means we're having to re-consider that.

The size of the tax contribution employers are being asked to make is small. It will be dwarfed by the economic impact of an improved transit system, the benefits of which will accrue to the businesses paying the tax. That's not to mention secondary impacts, such as making it possible for your employees to get to work without relying on a car.

We've read your statement on the Venti's website about your opposition to the tax. Your argument that the state isn't contributing a fair share is, at best, disingenuous - they already pay a percentage of payroll directly into transportation funds in lieu of a payroll tax. Additionally, your statement that this 0.21% tax increase is going to make it "potentially impossible" for you to provide health care benefits to your salaried employees is, frankly, ludicrous.

Finally, there's another reason where opposing this tax is a bad idea for you: the business you're going to lose by having adopted this position.

Some quick back-of-the-envelope math tells us our family is spending somewhere between $5,000 and $7,500 a year at your restaurant. That's based on roughly 1 visit for 50 weeks a year and a bill of around $100 (pre-tip) per visit. We typically have 2 kids, 2 adults, and we order appetizer, 2-3 adult entrees, 1-2 child entrees, 2 to 4 beers, and generally fill one or two growlers. Then you have to figure in the random business lunches, the beer pairing dinners that we've attended, the occasional summer afternoon beer on the patio, and so on - we're fairly confident $5,000 represents a good "low" estimate for the amount of money we give you in a year.

Now, with a 0.21% tax, in order for you to be assessed $5,000 a year, the payroll for Venti's - and that's payroll, not gross revenue, that's just the amount of money you're paying employees - your annual payroll would need to be in excess of 2.3 million dollars, or not quite $200,000 a month. We realize you employ many people between your two locations, but find it hard to believe your payroll is quite that large, given that the majority of them are wait staff that are exempt from normal minimum wage standards -- see below, this last bit was incorrect.

If our guess is right, you're going to lose more income from just our family over this issue than you'll end up paying when the measure passes - and based on the responses we've seen on social media to our posts about your position, we're not the only ones that won't be patronizing your establishments any more. In other words, in addition to displaying a shocking lack of community support, by taking this position, you've made a bad business decision.

We're having one last meal at Venti's tonight, because we need to explain to our friends who work there why they won't be seeing at the Taphouse as much in the future. We'll take that chance to leave this letter in the comment box, where we trust you'll see it. We'll also be sharing it on social media and urging others to join us in boycotting establishments displaying the "Stop the Employer Tax" signs.

We urge you to reconsider your position on this issue, for the good of the community, for the good of your business, and most selfishly, so that we can continue to patronize Venti's Cafe and Venti's Taphouse for years to come.

John & Laura Jacobs Anderson
Salem OR

Update: I have been informed by a reputable source that in Oregon, servers make the state minimum wage. I apologize for the assumption above, but still believe this tax will not add a significant burden to Venti's bottom line.