ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - In November, Albuquerque voters said yes to raising the city's minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50 an hour, and just 13 days into the increase, historic city restaurant is already feeling the pinch.
Owners of the historic El Charritos restaurant on Central say the hike is taking a bit out of business.
What started as a small restaurant in Northeast Albuquerque has grown into a staple for many New Mexicans.
"I ordered the button buster," exclaimed customer Joshaua Hogeland. "It's steak fingers with eggs, potatoes and beans on it. I also got a side order of pancakes! Got to love it here!"
"It's just like eating at Grandma's house," said Anthony Romero a co-owner of El Charritos.
But that flavor is fading fast. The city's recent minimum wage increase of $1 is leaving a bad taste in owner's mouths.
"The family business has gone through many different minimum wage increases through different economic times, and we've supported that," said Romero. "This time it's been a lot different because the economy has been so bad."
Romero says the hike came at the worst possible time for the business with an already sluggish economy, as people cut back on eating out and venders upped their prices for food and fuel.
To stay afloat El Charritos is cutting back too. They have slashed hours now closing at 2 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays to cut back on operating costs. El Charritos has also chosen not to fill six positions and say things could get worse.
"It's a little scary," Romero added. "The last thing we want to do is raise prices for our customers, but we might be forced to do that."
Even the most loyal customers like Hogeland and his family who eat at the restaurant once a month say that would hate to see that happen, and they feel bad for the owners.
"There's good and bad with it," he said. "It is to help the economy, but it also takes down some of these ma and pa stores. It's unfortunate."
Owners at El Charritos say they employ about 50 people.
They are waiting for next month's books to come in before cutting back any more.
Now one Bernalillo County Commissioner will introduce a proposal to raise the minimum wage in the county too.
No word on the when the commission could possibly vote on that proposal.
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