San Francisco Wage Hike Forces Popular Independent Bookstore To Close

An independent bookstore that has been in business for 18 years in San Francisco announced that it is being forced to close its doors due to the city’s looming $15 per hour minimum wage increase.

The business released a statement on Sunday:

In November, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 per hour by 2018. Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principal and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage. Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31st. The cafe will continue to operate until at least the end of this year.

As explained in the release, the minimum wage hike would increase Borderlands payroll by 39%, adding 18% to its total operating budget. To offset those new expenses, sales would have to increase by 20%, something they said is not “a realistic possibility for a bookstore in San Francisco at this time.”

Borderlands has weathered a few storms over the years, as businesses do, and have always found a way around those challenges. For example, they cite being faced with a 100% rent increase by a landlord, forcing them to change locations. The effect from the rise in online shopping and, of course, e-books. also hurt. Finally, they say that adding the cafe was good for business until the Great Recession of 2009, when they were hit “very hard.” Despite all of these trials, 2014 was said to be their best year ever.

The owners tried to find an alternative to closing down, even reducing staff, but the small salaries the employees already receive would never cover the increase in hours and added responsibilities. 

The statement reaches out to its loyal customers for ideas — “It is not impossible that we’ve missed a potential solution…” — and a public forum is scheduled for February to see if their “smart and imaginative group of customers” can provide any fresh solutions.

One commenter to Borderlands’ website stated:

Minimum wage is the principle of force applied to nothing more than an agreement between two people. Because force is applied is exactly why it causes problems and makes life harder than it needs to be. Force means ultimately that there is a gun behind the law – which can be direct or indirect. We need to learn that force in human relationships does not work – any where or any time.


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