DONALD T. FREEMAN: R.I.P. Subway and Chop Stop

On Tuesday, as I do twice a week after going to a nearby gym, I went to Chop Stop to get two salads for me and my husband. As I approached the register the employee who I know well sang out “A Caesar salad, right? And what else?” because I always get a Caesar and my husband switches it up. After I greeted her by name and thanked her, I handed over my weathered pre-paid 15% discount card which I have used for over 4 years even though they have not been issued in 2 years. “You’ve got $13.45 left on the card” she said. I handed her money and said, “Time to recharge the card!”.

She looked sheepishly at the other two employees and asked them, “Should I tell him?” and didn’t wait for them to answer. “This Chop Stop is closing, our last day of serving is Thursday. All of us come in Friday to break down the store. They just told us a few days ago.” She handed me back my $100 and card. I was stunned and asked “Did they offer you jobs at other franchises, what are your plans?”  She explained that yes, they were offered jobs but that she lives far south of West Hollywood and the other 7 stores — all of which will remain open — are in the San Fernando valley. The commute is too difficult so she will look for another job. Another employee said she gets to this store by bus and can’t possibly handle the bus transfers to the valley. The third is undecided.  All live outside of WeHo and plan next to work outside of WeHo.

“Why, I asked, what happened? This is West Hollywood, full of people who want nothing but salad! You always do a great business! I often have to wait!” They explained the boss says that the minimum wage in West Hollywood is even more than the store can handle. So, they are keeping the other 7 stores in the valley open and closing the WeHo one. The rent may be going up also. We chatted some more about the discount card I would not use any more, the good times we have had knowing each other and I said how grateful I am for their having fed me and my husband for so many years including during the pandemic. I’ve loved knowing them, their names, and being remembered as a regular. She said she and the other employee who opened the store on its first day in 2012 will be closing it on its last day in 2022 this Thursday.  Long time loyal employees and customers being displaced by the new labor law.  I felt sick to my stomach and resolved to return Thursday with my husband to say goodbye.  After that I went to the gym to tell the story to my trainer. He added that Subway is closing after decades in business on Santa Monica Blvd.

In November 2021 the city passed an ordinance raising West Hollywood’s minimum wage to the highest in the country. There were stories in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Forbes. Minimum wage at the end of 2021 was $13 to $14 per hour depending on the size of the business and rises in phases to almost $19 per hour by July 2023 for all businesses of any size and also mandating more than one month of leave per year half of which must be compensated.  West Hollywood explained in the ordinance that hiking the minimum wage would “keep workers and their families out of poverty” and “enable workers to meet basic needs and avoid economic hardship.”

Experienced business journalists predicted low margin businesses would close and the most vulnerable would lose rather than win.  Business owners and unions were not consulted — and were shocked. One exceptionally in-the-know businesswoman, Lisa Vanderpump, said at a council meeting “I just implore you to really give this a lot of thought because I do believe if we raise the minimum wage now it’s going to be counterproductive.”  At subsequent meetings, other business owners noted the wage hikes would force service cuts and businesses to move out of West Hollywood. And less than a year later the predicted economic outcomes are happening. West Hollywood residents such as myself lose, and the employees who city council grandly insisted would be paid more are now losing their jobs and having to move to jobs outside the city, leaving jobs they have had for a decade, and being paid less. Notably, Chop Shop franchises all over California, Arizona, and Oregon are not being closed.

I will ask – again – that the city council while staying liberal learn to function from reality rather than ideology.  Council acted like know-it-alls rather than civil servants.  Economists in all those national business news articles all saw what would happen why didn’t council?  All could see that businesses with tight margins would close.  I have to believe that council did not want to see.  Gracias Madre and Craigs – where no regular folks eat, stay open while Subway and Chop Stop close.  All the employees are leaving West Hollywood.   Neither ideology nor reality won here.

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WeHo Resident
WeHo Resident
1 month ago

People in this thread who are complaining about the minimum wage increase are obviously privileged individuals who don’t have to worry about not paying one bill in order to pay another. Shame on you! The business owners doing all the complaining are the same people who drive their brand new luxury cars in front of their businesses to grab the nightly deposits – while their underpaid employees take public transportation. Donald T. freeman, if you cared as much for the employees, as you do about your damn Caesar salad and personal trainer – you wouldn’t have written this bias article.… Read more »

Counting Dough
Counting Dough
1 month ago
Reply to  WeHo Resident

You obviously know nothing about running a business. In addition, no business owner shutters a business for no reason at all. If it doesn’t make money it is shut down. The minimum wage for tossing a salad or spreading tuna simply is too high.

Please stop with your complaining about a business owner driver a vehicle you envy. WeHo has policymakers that are crushing business owners. Wise up son.

WeHo Resident
WeHo Resident
1 month ago
Reply to  Counting Dough

Of course you would stoop to a tacky (and failed) (and tired) attempt at assuming I’m jealous of a luxury car and don’t know how to run a business. Gurl, bye!

Furthermore, I gave two reasons. One of which is that WeHo rent far outweighs the impact of minimum wage. Businesses were shutting down left and right BEFORE THE MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE.

Try reading the posts before sashaying to the keyboard and making idiotic commentary.

Instead of the handle Counting Dough consider Counting Brain Cells because you obviously are in need of more than a few.

Ugh!
Ugh!
1 month ago
Reply to  WeHo Resident

Soon to be revealed. Potential development of the NW corner of SMB & Fairfax that houses Starbucks. The Iranian gentleman that owns the property has the long game in mind to “beautify” this corner from its current iteration. Ugh!

Jose
Jose
29 days ago
Reply to  WeHo Resident

How much of that raise do you think these people will see when they are paying…guess what? 15% MORE for every thing they buy.

Lighting Guru
Lighting Guru
1 month ago

When you vote for democrats this is what you get. You get the abstract! Sure, wouldn’t it be great if everyone made $100,000 per year. Slinging tuna or spreading salad is not worth of $100k/year as the product margin on sandwiches and salads just do not support the idiocy of $20/hour minimum wage.

This concept may be beyond the typical democrat but it is REALITY.

C.R.
C.R.
1 month ago
Reply to  Lighting Guru

The fact is that this business model relying on not paying employees a proper wage has lasted far too long and should not exist anymore. It’s time for these businesses to either change the model or cease to exist. And you should be grateful it had this long of a run, it’s pretty amazing it did go on this long.

Larry Block
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  C.R.

you are so mis-informed. The business model has been paying wages within the confines of the law for years. If not the employees have remedies. The new ‘law’ is only in West Hollywood, that law does not exist in Beverly Hills, or Culver City putting those businesses at an advantage and West Hollywood businesses at a disadvantage, and leaves West Hollywood residents paying the highest taxes and wages and prices in the county or nation.

resident
resident
1 month ago
Reply to  Larry Block

Thanks, Larry. I appreciate hearing from you as an informed businessman after so many comments from the lounge-chair anarchists who would have their teenage fantasies brought to life in the real world.

Lighting Guru
Lighting Guru
1 month ago
Reply to  C.R.

You seem oblivious to reality! The model is changing. the new model is to close nonprofitable stores and not to open any new stores with thin margins in weho. THAT’S THE NEW MODEL.

mark feigin
mark feigin
1 month ago

all problems in America are the result of the Democratic Party

mark feigin
mark feigin
1 month ago

DEMOCRATS ARE A MENTALLY ILL CURSE ON SOCIETY – LOOK AT WHAT THEY HAVE DONE TO THE BLACK COMMUNITY – TURNED THEM INTO ZOO ANIMALS

Jose
Jose
29 days ago
Reply to  mark feigin

Only to be used for election time.

Randy
Randy
1 month ago

For those trying to relocate their business to LA, the requirements are pretty strict, as well. $16.04 per hour ($0.46 less than WeHo), and 48 hours of paid sick leave, vs. 96 hours in WeHo. Yes, half as much. Not sure if the 48 hours have to be used for sick time, or can be used for vacation, or if they have a contingency for unpaid time off. Time off rate is for full-time employees, and is pro-rated for part-time employees, just like in WeHo. These implementations are effective July 1, for both cities. The minimum wage in unincorporated areas… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Randy
Randy
Randy
1 month ago

I learned this morning that my local Subway, at Fairfax and SMB, is closing tomorrow. So I went in for a last visit. I asked the employees if it was the minimum wage, and they said the owner can’t afford the lease (maybe it was about to go up on July 1, not sure). There was an employee who has worked there for 28 years(!), and I gave them a nice fat tip. After the Starbucks closing right next door a few months ago, there is now, not a single affordable (less than $10) eatery within walking distance of my… Read more »

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[…] DONALD T. FREEMAN: R.I.P. Subway and Chop Stop  WEHOville […]

michaelz
michaelz
1 month ago

I paid $33.00 ( without tip ) at a weho restaurant last
night for a pizza…..imagine what a steak would cost !!!!

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago
Reply to  michaelz

Vito’s? Yeah they’re the most expensive. Lots of high quality ingredients along with being the closest to NYC pizza in the area.

WeHo Mary!
WeHo Mary!
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

Vito’s isn’t even close to New York Pizza. I’d rather get something that people in California actually know how to make.

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago
Reply to  WeHo Mary!

Okay sure buddy. Not getting in a debate with a NY pizza snob. And this is coming from someone from NY.

Edie
Edie
1 month ago

This is what happens when people who have never run a restaurant force people to pay double on 40% of their budget. I rarely go out to eat now. Because the restaurants have had to raise their prices so much to pay TIPPED employees high wages. These tipped employees were already making easily $30 an hour with tips. Last time I ate out it cost $38 for just me. A double vegan burger, french fries and 1 beer. I’d go there more often… but not for that kind of money. Even $25 would be a lot. But at least that’s… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Edie
enemyofthestate
enemyofthestate
1 month ago

Weho city council economics are gravity-defying. Has any member taken Economics 101?

R Lutz
R Lutz
1 month ago

Fear Not! Sprouts makes a bad-ass sandwich for only $4.99. You can load it up as you wish. & it’s purrrfectly delicious

R Lutz
R Lutz
1 month ago

Subway is on its last breath it seems. The store on S.M. across from the 24 Hr Fitness bldg, has closed, the subway on S.M. & Fairfax has a notice if closing on their door. One by one.

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