By JAMES G. JONES JR.SEATTLE (Reuters) – The owner of a Japanese sushi bar in Seattle has vowed to close and change its policies on tipping as the city seeks to ease a national outcry over the city’s high cost of living.
Katsuya Nakashima said in an email that the bar has been operating for more than two decades without any kind of no-touch policy, but is trying to “learn to live with the high cost” of living by hiring more staff.
The Seattle-based company said it has already cut back on tipping and introduced “flexible” policies that allow customers to tip up to 25 percent of their bill.
Nakashima, who declined to give his full name, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday that he and his family have worked hard to keep the restaurant open, but he has a few tips for the city.
He said he had already spent $2,000 on renovations and has plans to expand the menu.
He said he also wants to expand his sushi menu to include a variety of fish dishes and seafood, as well as more salads and sandwiches.
“My hope is that it becomes an opportunity for people to come here and experience the food, the atmosphere and the service of the restaurant,” he said.
Nashashima has been in the business for more more than 30 years and has raised over $70 million.
He does not intend to expand further.
Seattle’s sushi market is estimated to be worth $3 billion.
“I am happy to work with any restaurateur to do it, but if they have no-tipping policy, then I am going to close,” he added.
Numerous restaurants have opened in Seattle in recent years and many are owned by foreigners.
Koto-san, which has four locations, was founded in 2012 in Tokyo by the chef-owner of the Michelin-starred Michelin sushi restaurant in Paris.
It serves a menu that includes some of the most expensive sushi in the world.
Kotosan also has been a hotspot for foreigners seeking a sushi restaurant for their first meal.
Last year, the company was the subject of a federal lawsuit accusing it of violating federal rules by using foreign workers, including people from China, to fill servers and cook sushi, and for failing to pay workers at its Japanese restaurants.
In a statement on Thursday, the Japanese Embassy in Washington said it was “deeply disappointed by this new development.”
“The Japanese government’s failure to protect the right to fair pay for its citizens remains an urgent issue,” it said.
It urged the Japanese government to “establish a safe environment for foreign workers to work and to provide a safe and reliable living environment.”(Reporting by John Walcott in Washington; Editing by Paul Simao)