Restaurant still faced with December closure
Concerns regarding the pending closure of the Honeycomb
were presented to Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Congressman Bruce Westerman (Arkansas-04) Tuesday morning.
The senator and congressman visited the establishment in light of a recent announcement to close the 21-year-old facility.
The restaurant was opened by Group Living, Inc.for the purpose of providing jobs to individuals with developmental disabilities.
In July, the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division published enforcement standards for additional regulations imposed on sub-minimum wage employers covered by section 14c of the Fair Labor and Standards Act.
It was recently reported that these changes will force the Honeycomb restaurant in Arkadelphia to close its doors on Dec. 23.
Group Living Inc. assistant director Yukiko Taylor said she and her organization are trying to remain positive and optimistic, despite the news of the Honeycomb's pending closure.
"This whole movement is nationwide and it is hitting so many different states. Now it is hitting Arkansas," said Taylor.
According to Taylor, one of her primary concerns is the fate of clients on low to medium-functioning levels.
"We are concerned if they will successful in the community. Especially in a small town like Arkadelphia because there are limited business opportunities," said Taylor.
Although the clients fall under the category of sheltered workshop and receive compensation for their labor, Taylor said the individuals receive so much more than money. She hopes they can continue their feeling of independence.
Taylor said the Honeycomb was chosen as one of the pilot programs to have a smooth transition from sheltered workshop to supportive employment.
Cotton said Group Living, Inc. provides meaningful jobs, fellowship and a sense of belonging to individuals with disabilities.
"It is sad to me that ill advised regulations are shutting down this restaurant. I have stopped efforts to shut down sheltered workshops as a whole, like the second-hand store across the street," said Cotton.
According to Cotton, he would like to see the current regulations modified or repealed so a restaurant like the Honeycomb can operate.
"A second-hand store is great, but this is a great setting where people from the community get a chance to interact," Cotton said.
While he doesn't think the short-term prospects are good, Cotton said he plans to work on legislation to modify or repeal the current regulations, which would, hopefully, allow the Honeycomb to reopen its doors.
"This has hurt a lot of people all across and not just in this district," said Westerman.
While the congressman believes the intentions were good, the regulations were poorly executed. He has pledged to work with Cotton to find a solution to the problem.