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It has been nearly 20 years since I left behind my corporate marketing career to help my father expand our family hospitality business from bars to restaurants. Today, we're operating six locations across the city and employing hundreds of Minnesotans, and I haven't looked back.

I am proud to be among the hospitality operators who have committed to the success of Minneapolis. The very foundation of our business model is developing restaurants in underserved neighborhoods. I look forward to the growth that comes with revitalizing Minneapolis, the chance to open new concepts and welcome more Minnesotans to our doors. I know it is a goal shared within the Minneapolis city government, as well.

Ensuring a fair policy climate is crucial. Some have recently suggested that we create a labor standards board of unelected appointees to make decisions on wages, working conditions, scheduling and other standards across specific sectors. My question for supporters of such a proposal: What problem are we trying to solve that the city isn't already equipped to take on?

Wage theft is, of course, illegal. And it is important that the city provides pathways for employees to recover unpaid wages. I'd support more direct funding to city officials charged with rectifying these issues long before handing over authority to unelected boards.

We also must recognize the employee-protection laws that are already on the books in Minneapolis. From a minimum-wage increase earlier this year to the state's new sick and safe time policy, operators like myself are complying with a host of existing regulations rightfully aimed at protecting employees. Plus, on top of those protections, employers are doing everything they can to retain and attract employees in a competitive market. Higher wages and benefits are being offered, and operators need flexibility — not more mandates — to ensure they can support their staff. Employees, after all, are the heart of our industry.

While the notion of new regulations on restaurant and other business owners is certainly concerning, what worries me most is the possibility that members of these boards would have little to no experience in hospitality — or any of the other sectors they may be charged with investigating, regulating or otherwise overseeing.

Minneapolis has changed so much over the years, and I'm proud that our restaurants have evolved with it. Needs, demographics and food and beverage trends are always changing across our vibrant city. And it is the role of hospitality operators to reflect those changes. It's a commitment we've made through the hiring of dedicated diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) staff as well, who recently led an effort to develop Braille menus at the Howe in southeast Minneapolis — now a standard practice across our locations around the Twin Cities.

This kind of independence — being able to make decisions that meet the needs of our customers and employees — is what allows the hospitality sector to thrive and the communities we serve to thrive along with us.

As our restaurant group works toward expansion, we continue to prioritize investments where we can own our own space. While not every bar or restaurant group can do so, it is foundational to our model and I believe demonstrates a real dedication to the city. Barriers to small-business ownership, put in place by labor standards boards or other unelected entities, represent a departure from the goals that are shared by me and all members of the city government.

It has been an honor to sustain and expand a multigenerational restaurant group in Minneapolis. Especially important to me is creating a positive work environment that empowers employees and puts great product on our bars and tables. Let's avoid creating solutions in search of a problem, and instead encourage continued smart investments in the city — of course working to protect our employees along the way.

David Benowitz is president and co-owner, Craft & Crew Hospitality in Minneapolis.