• Seattle business owner sends angry letter to City Council over hotel worker protection ordinance

    By: KIRO 7 News Staff

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - The owner of Seattle's ‘Biscuit Bitch' sent an angry letter to the City Council over the hotel worker protection ordinance. 

    On Monday, the City Council voted 9-0 in favor of legislation designed to provide health and safety protections to hotel workers. Click here to read more. 

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    In her letter, Kimmie Spice said she believes the ordinance will negatively affect her small business and complained about taxes, traffic and public disorder.

    She later retracted the letter, expressing regret and apologizing for her use of harsh language. 

    Read Spice's full letter:

    Dear Councilmembers,

    You know, at first I tried to appeal to you while keeping a cool head. But, lam so angry right now at the way this city treats small businesses! Every time | turn around I'm paying a new tax for a sign permit or an awning or a table outside, B&O tax, sugar tax, a myriad of licenses, elevator permits, health permits, higher property taxes that are passed on in my triple net, etc. etc.

    And what do l get in return from the city? Streets that take over an hour to get less than ONE MILE from one of my shops to another to transfer my products because my commercial vehicle is not allowed to drive down 3" Ave anymore. Construction EVERYWHERE leaving no place to park delivery vehicles and blocking the customer entrances to my businesses, making my shops filthy with exhaust and dust and making my employees feel ill all summer long. Once quaint neighborhoods like Belltown being demolished for glass-fronted condos, driving up rents making it impossible to find an affordable place to run a small business and impossible for my staff to find affordable housing. A city that couldn't see past big business to pass a head tax to help build that affordable housing for these service workers. A city whose police officers tell my staff to use pepper spray on junkies that enter the shop to assault them, spit and throw bottles at them, instead of offering to help keep them safe by patrolling the area more.

    My lease term is coming up in February at the Belltown Inn and | WILL leave before | change my excellent benefit Structure. YOU go tell my employees in all three of my shops that they will no longer get their summer profit sharing check because now | will instead be paying 100% instead of 75% of ALL of my employees' insurance they never use anyway because they are young and healthy. All because our Belltown shop rents from a hotel we have NOTHING to do with. We will move somewhere else outside of the incorporated city.

    And no other small business will rent the space at the Belltown Inn on the corner of 3™ and Bell, notorious far junkies, panhandlers and drug dealers. Before we were there the businesses never lasted, even the gyro chain restaurant that was there at one point went out of business because it's a notoriously sketchy block. So, the Belltown Inn will suffer too. The vagrants and dealers will take over our storefront.

    People don't stay at the Belltown Inn because of Biscuit Bitch and people don't go to Biscuit Bitch because they are staying at Belltown Inn. We are an internationally known tourist destination. Tourists wait in line for over an hour sometimes on weekends to eat with us. We do not benefit from being in the hotel. Our other two locations have the same lines and wait and they are in old apartment buildings. When is the last time you chose a hotel because of the restaurant in it? There are hundreds of restaurants within walking distance from every hotel in Seattle!

    Is this what you want for this city? For there to be only huge corporate chain restaurants in your hotels? Do you want empty storefronts instead of new small businesses? No new business will be able to afford to do these things right off the bat. lt took me five years to get to the point where | could provide the benefits | do for my staff. Seattle is known for having unique small businesses, but if this type of legislation continues to beat us down, that will soon not be the case!

    Sincerely,
    Kimmie Spice, owner Biscuit Bitch

    On Tuesday, Spice posted a follow-up letter that expressed her regret and said, in part, "my language calling homeless people junkies and vagrants in my (original) letter was wrong, and I apologize. They are humans and deserve respect and dignity.

    Read Spice's follow-up letter:

    Regarding the letter I wrote to city council:

    I wrote that letter in a moment of frustration and regret some of the language | used and some of the things I said to make my points.

    I was asked by the Seattle Restaurant Alliance, the Seattle Hotel Association and the Washington Hospitality Association (WHA) to attend and speak against including ancillary businesses being included in the legislation to protect hotel workers. I am not a member of any of these organizations, primarily because they lobbied against the $15 minimum wage laws, but I went to speak because I didn't understand why businesses located in a hotel that had nothing to do with the hotel would have to abide by the same rules.

    From the time my business could afford to do so, I have offered the highest quality health insurance available, I've always paid higher than legislated wages, I close for the holidays and give everyone a paid vacation, I take my two or more year staff to Florida during the holidays so they can see my roots and see southern hospitality in action, I share the summer profit with my staff. This year, I added a matching retirement plan.

    The proposed legislation meant I would have to change all that and, among other things that didn't make sense for my business, pay 100% of the health insurance costs (instead of the 75% I now pay). So, | spoke up for selfish reasons. While | wanted the hotel workers to have these benefits, I didn't want to change mine because my staff loves the structure (they get insurance AND a big fat check after summer) and they stay with me long term- it works for us. I would also have to change the structure for all my employees, not just the one shop in the hotel, to keep benefits fair.

    I believe all restaurants should offer health insurance to their employees if it is possible, but | asked the council if they would consider legislating that separately or possibly giving us credit for what we are already doing and the autonomy to structure our benefits with the input of our staff. At one of the meetings, some of the council members stated that they meant to change the definition of an ancillary business to a business that had a door that opened into the hotel. They had listened to my comments and I felt good that we wouldn't be included.

    Then last week I heard from the WHA that Biscuit Bitch would still be affected by the vote yesterday. In a moment of frustration and anger, I drafted the letter.

    It has been a hard summer. Yes, at two of my shops, staff has been threatened and assaulted by homeless or mentally ill people and we considered getting some type of security because they felt unsafe. My staff interact with the homeless on a regular basis and treat them with compassion and kindness and when something like that happens, it brings out my mothering instincts to protect them. It's frustrating! The construction is frustrating, the parking tickets and such are frustrating, the loss of the Belltown Block and the Showbox is frustrating, living and running a business in a city is frustrating, but that's what I signed up for and I am grateful to this city for all it has given me.

    From what I know this minute, the council listened to my comments and changed the definition of ancillary business to not include restaurants like mine. Not because of my angry letter, but possibly partly because of the other letter I wrote and the input they received in the prior meetings at which I and others spoke out. 

    I don't expect it to be easy to run a business in a growing city like Seattle, but sometimes it feels like small business owners are of least concern when it comes to development. I've offered to consult with city council on this if they would like my input. I don't know the answers, but I am willing to do my part to advocate for other small business owners and to push for fair benefits and wages for service industry workers.

    Sincerely, Kimmie Spice

    * My language calling homeless people junkies and vagrants in my letter was wrong, and I apologize. They are humans and deserve respect and dignity. 

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