Metro in Brief

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Correction appended.

Au Bon Pain reopens with new decor

The Au Bon Pain on Thayer Street reopened Saturday after nearly six weeks of renovations, resulting in updated decor and lighting, a largely new staff and a few additions to the menu, said General Manager Anuj Bidani.

“It’s been packed since then,” he said.

After a soft opening on Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., the cafe opened officially Saturday morning at 7 a.m. High-backed cushioned booths along the windows are the most visible change, but Bidani said they aren’t the only one. The menu now offers a “Create Your Own Salad” option for $5.89, panini sandwiches for $6.19 to $6.79 and rice bowls for $6.49 to $6.79.

Three-quarters of the approximately 25 employees are also new to Au Bon Pain, Bidani said. Recruited in early January and trained at other Providence Au Bon Pain locations, employees “feel proud of working on an opening team,” he said.

“No one has quit yet,” he added.

Reaction from customers has been equally positive, Bidani said. “They love the decor and love the food,” he said. Vidya Putcha ’07 praised the new lighting and booths, but customer Charu Gupta ’07 said she “didn’t even know they had new food.”

– Simmi Aujla

Minimum wage rises to $7.40 per hour

The Rhode Island state minimum wage increased to $7.40 per hour on Jan. 1, up 30 cents from $7.10 per hour. The increase – effective for workers aged 16 years and older – is the final stage of a law passed in early 2006 that mandated raising the minimum wage by a total of 65 cents in two increments. The first stage of the law increased the minimum wage from $6.75 to $7.10 and went into effect on March 1 of last year.

– Sara Molinaro

Living wage ordinance won’t affect U. employees

Providence’s living wage ordinance, passed by the City Council’s finance committee on Dec. 18, would require businesses receiving new city tax breaks and nonprofit organizations receiving grant funding from the city to pay workers a minimum of $10.19 per hour. The City Council approved the ordinance, which was backed by former Ward 1 City Councilman David Segal, once on Dec. 22, but the ordinance, which needs to be passed twice by the full City Council to become law, has not been voted on a second time. The largest nonprofit organization affected by the ordinance would most likely be the Providence Public Library, and wages of Brown employees would not be affected, according to Segal.

– Sara Molinaro

Debit cards to replace unemployment checks

Debit cards will soon be used to distribute unemployment insurance benefits, replacing unemployment checks, the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training announced last week. The debit cards, which will be supplied by JP Morgan Chase, can be used to take cash out of an ATM or pay at stores accepting Visa cards.

Under the new system, recipients without a bank account will have access to their benefits without having to pay check-cashing fees. ATM transactions using the new debit cards will be surcharge-free at machines run by Washington Trust, Allpoint and Chase banks. Recipients of unemployment insurance will also be able to receive payment just 24 hours after they are approved for benefits.

Cardholders will be able to check their balances on the Internet or by calling a toll-free phone number. Funds represented by the debit cards are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and fully covered by federal banking regulations.

– Sara Molinaro

Due to an editing error, an article in Tuesday’s Herald (“Au Bon Pain reopens with new decor,” Jan. 30) incorrectly identified Charu Gupta ’07 as a male. Gupta is female.