The Common Man is a small group of semi-upscale restaurants in New Hampshire, and the owner, Alex Ray is a pretty civic-minded fellow. Last summer, he started a program for youths — he basically turned one room of his restaurant over to a bunch of them to run as a standalone business, helping them out as needed but letting them do all the hands-on work themselves. The kids did everything — scheduling, working, making deposits, etc. — and Ray just mainly kept an eye on things.
It was a great success, and the kids learned a hell of a lot about running a business — as well as making a bit of money for themselves. All in all, a great story.
Until the federal government got involved.
They looked very carefully at the breakfast room operation, which Ray had set up through the Communities for Alcohol- and Drug-Free Youth (CADY) program and which was supervised by an Americorps volunteer, and noted that the kids had really thrown themselves into the project. They came in early, on their own time, to get the place ready, and often stayed late to make sure everything was done.
That kind of enthusiasm and dedication cannot be tolerated, however. Ray was fined almost $4,000 for child labor violations by the US Department of Labor. He negotiated it down to about half that, and paid it.
What lesson has Ray learned from this experience?
He says he’ll do it again next summer, and in two locations next time.
Alex Ray. The kind of guy who makes me so damned proud to be a New Hampshirite.