Tuesday night’s midterm elections contained a vote that will have a large impact on Arkansas restaurants. Voters passed Arkansas Issue 5 by an overwhelming margin; nearly 7 in 10 voters said yes. Issue 5 raises the minimum wage in Arkansas starting at the beginning of the year. Currently, the minimum wage is $8.50; on Jan.1, 2019, it will go up to $9.25. In 2020, it goes up to $10 an hour, and in 2021 the minimum wage will rest at $11. For tipped employees, such as most waiters and bartenders, the base $2.63 per hour will not change. However, if a tipped employee’s tips don’t get the employee’s pay rate up to minimum wage, the employer will have to cover the difference. Many employees at both local and chain restaurants will be affected by this vote, and we will have to wait and see what impact it has on menu pricing and availability in the coming years.
West Little Rock sports bar The Tavern has closed for good. As one of the few true sports bars in Little Rock, the Promenade restaurant had a loyal following, especially on Saturdays and Sundays during football season. We haven’t been able to confirm the reason for the closing, but other restaurants in the area have informed us that rent prices there have been extremely high. The Tavern was in business for more than seven years before last week’s announced closing. It is the second Promenade restaurant to close in 2018; Del Frisco Grille closed its doors back in June. Café Brunelle also closed up shop last year.
Also closed, but not permanently, is longtime Little Rock dive The Oyster Bar. The Stifft Station restaurant has been closed this week to replace some kitchen equipment. For most restaurants, that wouldn’t necessitate a full, week-long closure. However, The Oyster Bar’s century-old building requires some special attention and modification to make the replacement happen. The Oyster Bar is on track to open again Friday, though you should double-check the restaurant’s Facebook page before you head that way for lunch or dinner this weekend.
Arkansas’ annual professional cooking competition has selected its 10 semifinalists. Diamond Chef will pit the semifinalists against one another to narrow the field down to six finalists. The semifinalists are:
- Steven Binotti, Petit & Keet
- Patrick Buchanan, Agasi 7
- Jimmy Carter, Hot Springs Country Club
- Casey Copeland, The Avenue (Hot Springs)
- Jordan Davis, Chenal Country Club
- Brandon Douglas, Greenleaf Grill
- Amanda Ivy, Sauce(d)
- Jamie McAfee, Pine Bluff Country Club
- Geovanny Vilagran, Little Rock Marriott
- Izaak Winter, YaYa’s Euro Bistro
This year, there is no defending champion. That’s because Mary Beth Ringgold of Cajun’s Wharf is no longer eligible after becoming the first woman to win the event twice. The Diamond Chef final is April 11 at Pulaski Tech’s culinary institute.
I think we’re pretty much done with warm temperatures the rest of this year, which means it’s time for fall cocktails! Take a look at the new cocktail lineup from Trio’s Restaurant that is sure to warm you up this November.
And there’s a different kind of market doing business in SoMa. We took a look at the new Night Market at Bernice Garden and how its shining a light on businesses that sometimes get overlooked.