Tom Douglas says Seattle City Council and Mayor Murray are anti-business

By ERIN SHANNON  | 
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Dec 20, 2016

Last year former Starbucks International president, and self-proclaimed  progressive, Howard Behar, purchased two full-page ads in The Seattle Times to publish a scathing letter to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and members of Seattle’s City Council. 

The strongly worded letter criticized Murray and Council members for the city’s increasingly hostile policies toward employers.  Behar noted that not only are the new laws the city’s leaders have passed making it difficult for employers to survive and grow their business, but the city’s attitude toward employers has shifted.  Rather than viewing employers as community partners who want to run a successful business and provide good job for workers, Behar says city officials now seem to view employers as the enemy:

“Seattle’s city government sees business as nothing more than a necessary evil, focusing on a few bad actors and unfairly painting every employer with the same brush. In the punitive effort to punish the bad apples, Seattle has become an incubator for misguided labor policies that threaten employers, entrepreneurs and employees who want and are trying to do the right thing.”

Behar went on to explain:

“One of the city’s great business leaders recently stated that for the first time in his business life here he felt like he was being seen and treated as a criminal.”

Now iconic Seattle restaurateur and celebrity chef Tom Douglas says he believes the City Council and the mayor simply don’t like business.

In a recent Puget Sound Business Journal Live event, Douglas said previous Seattle administrations had formed supportive connections with him.  Now, he says the relationship feels contentious to the point of opposition:

“This is the first time in my working career where, other than (Seattle City Councilmember) Tim Burgess, I really don’t know any city council people.  I don’t know the mayor because I feel both those groups don’t like business.”

Douglas said the relationship between the city and employers has deteriorated to the point that for the first time, he is looking to open his next restaurant outside of Seattle.  Douglas currently owns 14 restaurants in Seattle and has previously been committed to keeping his business in the city.  But Seattle’s increasingly heavy-handed regulations, such as the city’s $15 minimum wage and regulations restricting how employers schedule workers, are simply making it more difficult to do business.

"The reality is that we don’t have a city council that values downtown businesses and there are plenty of city councils that do," he said. "So I'm starting to look around."

The owner of Northwest Caster & Equipment made that difficult decision two years ago.  After 80 years in Seattle, the family business relocated to unincorporated Lynnwood.  The owner blamed Seattle’s increasingly difficult business climate for the move.