A sad story in the Valley Reporter tells of the difficult challenges forcing major changes at an iconic local business, The Mad River Barn in Fayston, and one owner’s intention to leave Vermont for more business friendly Florida. While the COVID-19 economic shutdown was the last straw for the inn/restaurant/wedding venue, it was not the only straw.
As the Valley Reporter states regarding owners Heather Brown and Andy Lynds:
Brown said that the impact of the political climate in Vermont on their ability to run a successful business was significant. She cited a minimum wage law that increased front-of-the-house hourly wages by 50 percent which means that front-of-the-house workers (receiving tips) are earning an average of $49 an hour which can’t be shared with back-of-the-house employees.
“That’s one reason why Vermont has not turned out to be a good place for us. The Legislature doesn’t understand the reality of running a business and thinks that business is bad and that business owners are bad,” she said.
“Those kinds of things should be considered in policies and they’re not, which have catastrophic downstream conditions.”
Yes, these things should be considered, and no they are not. Instead, rather than exploring ways to help businesses such as the Mad River Barn succeed, our legislators are now working on a bill make it illegal for them to provide their guests with shampoo, conditioner, etc. in mini-plastic bottles. So, you can understand why business owners are becoming increasingly disillusioned with Vermont.
If we want our state to successfully emerge from this COVID-19 recession, the priorities of the legislature as well as its overall attitude will need to change.
— Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.