On Monday, August 21, 2023, the CEO of La Boheme restaurant, Lucian Tudor, took to the streets of West Hollywood with members of his staff in tow to protest the City’s $19.08 minimum wage, which is currently the highest in the nation. A group of about ten people walked to the council chambers to speak before the West Hollywood City Council at a regular council meeting that night, to address the city’s minimum wage, which Tudor said has forced him to lay off all his busboys and that he is putting La Boheme for sale.
In a written statement, he referred to the policy as “back-room policy making, a superficial approach to dialogue with stakeholders, broken campaign promises with nothing but lip service to the constituents who put you in office.”
During council member comments, Mayor Pro Tempore John Erickson said he was confused by La Boheme’s messaging, referring to their appearance at a council meeting on June 26, where the La Boheme CEO said the business was hurting due to public safety issues, and now they are saying the business is hurting due to the minimum wage.
“Both are very important conversations,” said Mayor Pro Tem Erickson. “Ultimately, La Boheme is owned by Global Dining Group, which is worth 4.4 billion yen based in Japan, which is $30 billion in United States currency, so it’s owned by a global dining corporation, and they let 20 buspeople go. I understand every business has a top sheet, and that they have to look out for how they make their business work. And I’m not saying just because it’s worth $30 billion–again, 30 billion, with a B, that that makes any policy correct, or wrong. But I have to argue that when you talk about inflation prices at our supermarket, those were blamed on hazard pay for workers during the pandemic. Kroger is worth billions and billions of dollars and they never took away executive level compensation that provided those executives with that money and never gave it back to the staff.”
The Mayor Pro Tem said Tudor is attacking the council and accusing them of putting political preference over public policy. “I don’t agree with the assumption that that is the truth,” he said. “When you come up here and you talk, and you ask for help, like a member of our community did, we want to help, we want to listen to you, but the message is getting muddled and I don’t think that that’s appropriate at the moment. I’m happy to sit down with Lucien, but from what I’ve been told, they have La Boheme as a jewel in their property area because it’s in West Hollywood, and if they put it up for sale, they put it up for sale, and I’m happy to talk about that. But again, La Boheme is owned by a group that is worth $30 billion. I am trying to see the small business aspect here. And I’m happy to meet with you again Lucien… there is a one year waiver that you can apply for if you feel that the policy is hurting your business.”
On Saturday, Tudor issued an open letter to the press in response to the comments the Mayor Pro Tem made this past Monday.
Mayor Pro Tem John Erickson,
We ask that you correct the Public record of the August 21st Council Meeting, where you represented and confirmed, that our parent company, Global Dining is a $30 B corporation. To give the Council and the Public a sense of how much money we are worth, you also compared us to a grocery store, which we didn’t find appropriate. Even grocery stores’ profits are only 2% net, regardless of gross receipts. No business will operate any venues at a loss. This is simply not justifiable from the business perspective. I deeply care about employees making a decent living wage, but for low profitability businesses, such as restaurants and food industry, in general, it is just not sustainable! It’s better to have a job at $16 plus tips than no job at all.
Obviously, your motives were to find memorable and damning sound bites to attack La Boheme. The sound bites came from Japanese Stock Exchange. Unfortunately, they were not accurate. When converted from Yen, the real value was not 30B but 31M dollars. Again, we ask the Public record to be corrected.
I want to clarify that saying ‘larger political ambitions drive policy decisions’ was not meant as an attack. It’s a reality based on facts, which have been published and voiced in numerous and credible sources. Being a West Hollywood Mayor, elected because of the involvement and support of “Local Here 11”, who also lead the effort for the highest minimum wage in the country, fits the profile of positions with more power such as supervisor or congress woman.
I’m aware that my accent or inaccurate grammar can seem too direct. But I’m never dishonest or profane. I appreciate helpful criticism, but being attacked or demonized is not acceptable. It makes others unwilling to speak.
I would like to move past our exchange at the Council Meeting and a find a common ground that is solution-focused, where differences remain, but held within a context of working for the better good of our community.
Regarding the waiver being offered by the city, we believe that this is a temporary solution to a fundamental problem that requires an immediate and meaningful dialogue. A dialogue that has not been available to the stakeholders when this policy was being developed.
I’m prepared to fully open La Boheme’s books for you and other council members to begin a constructive conversation. It could provide a more tangible way to understand the change that occurred on Jan 1st, 2023, with real-time information. However, I’m open to whatever suggestions you may have that are in our collective interest.
Safety and inflation are the most significant issues that impact the quality of life of our community. After 32 years, La Boheme feels the responsibility to voice those concerns. Maybe waving the sales tax for food industry, will help our residents deal with inflation, as well as bringing revenue to the local businesses. I hope this letter is received with the spirit of good as intended.
I look forward to speaking with you soon.
Global-Dining, Inc. of California