Mi Mero Mole to close; ‘Minimum wage hike a trade off’

Coronavirus

Nick Zukin closing his restaurant after 9 years

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Nick Zukin understands that a minimum wage hike helps many people, including his employees at Mi Mero Mole in Chinatown.

Zukin told KOIN 6 News he tried to stay open for his employees during the pandemic but lost money every day. So after 9 years in business, he’s closing the restaurant for good after Friday.

Customers inside Mi Mero Mole in Portland, June 30, 2020 (KOIN)

Most of their business came from tourists, concert goers and office workers, he said. When the pandemic hit they lost the majority of their business — and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon.

He knows a lot of other restaurants facing the same issues

“It’s just the nature of where we are more than anything. Some of the restaurants in neighborhoods are scraping by, some are even doing OK. Just kind of depends on where you area nd what type of food you’re doing.”

He’s been worried about having to close since March.

“I mean personally right now it’s just a matter of trying to survive, trying to pay my mortgage, not go bankrupt because I spent the last 15 years putting every ounce of my money into restaurants,” Zukin said. “It’s all gone now.”

On Wednesday, the minimum wage in Portland goes up to $13.25 an hour. The employees at Mi Mero Mole were already making more than the minimum wage, so this change wouldn’t have impacted Zukin.

“I mean it’s always a trade off. It’ll obviously help people who if they would’ve been paid $7 an hour, you know, 10 years ago and they’re paid $13 or $14 an hour now, obviously it helps them pay them bills,” he said. “But it will also mean that fewer people in the long run are going to be employed because a business owner just can’t do it.”

GoFundMe: Mi Mero Mole workers

Now, all of his employees need to find a new job, and some of them don’t qualify for unemployment. So Zukin started a GoFundMe for them that, at this time, has raised more than $14,000.

“Most of my employees aren’t eligible for unemployment,” he said, “so it is literally the difference between eating and not eating for some of them.”

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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