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City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill: A last resort or catalyst for change?



City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill has remained firmly stationed in City Place Plaza for the last two decades.

An anonymous questionnaire administered to 20 of City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill’s servers and bartenders revealed that 85% of the surveyed employees have obtained a higher education degree. The employees classified by this percentage have done at least one of the following: attended college for at least two years, dropped out midway or graduated college.


Justin Hamilton is one of City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill’s many employees who have attained some form of higher education. A seasoned server, Hamilton has spent the last seven and a half years at the fine-dining establishment and two decades working in the food industry.

Hamilton explained that he makes more money serving than he would in secondary education, his chosen field of study. 


“It is very tough,” Hamilton said. “A lot of people are getting degrees that they can’t even use, and the fields they get the degrees in have so many people looking for a job that it is very difficult for any of them to get a job.”  


Although Hamilton did not go on to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in secondary education, he believes choosing another major might have helped his chances in finding a job upon graduating. 


Hamilton says he wants to eventually leave the restaurant industry. He currently owns Diamond Stars International Baseball Agency, a small company he hopes will expand and allow him to leave his current job.


Henson waits for entrees to be prepped at the expo line as he assists the food runner with the priorities of dinner guests.

Danny Henson has worked alongside Hamilton for the last eight months as a full-time server. Like Hamilton, Henson is a seasoned server with 17 years of experience in the restaurant industry. 


He recently graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a bachelor's degree in business. Henson said he attended college because he wants a career more ambitious than serving.

“Higher education, more money, career and business opportunities,” Henson said. 


The FAU graduate has two upcoming interviews for promising internships and feels confident about his chances in securing a job in a short amount of time. Contrary to Hamilton’s views, Henson believes the job market can easily handle the next generation of college graduates. 


Despite their differing opinions regarding college education and its related career fields, both Hamilton and Henson earn an approximate income of $50,000-$65,000 annually. These salaries give them the freedom to pursue their personal goals and aspirations. 

In concession with the majority vote of the other anonymously surveyed employees, Hamilton and Henson said the reliable income is a significant factor in why they stay at their current occupations.


Of the 20 City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill employees who consented to the survey, 65% of them make $50-$150 in a work shift ranging from 4 to 6 hours. A third of them earn an average of over $200 per shift. 


A chart showing the percentage of surveyed individuals with higher education who are currently employed at City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity established a 21-cent increase on the minimum wages of Florida laborers, according to WPTV. The average minimum wage rose to $8.46 per hour, and the minimum wage of employees who earn tips increased to $5.44 per hour on Jan. 1, 2019.


Although the minimum wage for servers is approximately $3 less than the average rate, the results of the survey reveal a significant difference between the two incomes. 


These standards show that if an individual who is paid the average rate works six hours, he or she will make $50.76. This amount is approximately a quarter of what 30 percent of the tipped employees at City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill can make in the same number of hours. The statistics reveal that the combination of wages and tips earned within City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill serve as substantial income for its employees. 


While the revenue obtained by the restaurant serves as a reliable motivator for its employees, there are additional reasons an individual with a college degree would choose to remain a server or bartender. According to interviewed employees, City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill provides its laborers with benefits such as flexible schedules, monthly sales contests and attentive management. 


“It’s very well run,” Hamilton said. “The management and the owners know what they are doing. They have been very successful. It is why they continue to open restaurants, not close them.” 


According to the responses of both the interviewees and surveyed employees, City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill stands out amidst the crowd of competing restaurants they had worked at previously. A position at this high-end establishment is not merely a final resort for college dropouts or a standard blue-collar occupation. This company serves as a chance at redemption for individuals like Hamilton and Henson, who currently use the position as a reliable placeholder to get where they want to go.


By Brenna Brown

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