The owner of an Ottawa restaurant says the increase in the minimum wage is one of the driving factors in his decision to close his doors.

The Black Tomato will shut down at the end of December, after 23 years in business.

The restaurant is located in the Byward Market at 11 George Street.

Pete Besserer's sign he’s hanging on his restaurant kind of says it all:  that's he's closing at the end of December. 

His t-shirts that he and his staff are wearing, with the words “Grim” and “Wake up Ontario” kind of explain why: a political statement on the Liberal government decision to hike the minimum wage. 

“Is it the only thing that's brought me to this decision?  No, there are lots of things involved in running a business let alone a restaurant,” says Besserer, “but this is the straw that breaks the camel's back.”

Besserer figures the climb from an $11.60/hour minimum wage to $14 dollars in January, then $15 dollars the following year will mean an $80-thousand dollar hit for him.

“Should people make more money?” asks Besserer, “Yes because the cost of living is through the roof.  But in my opinion this is wrong.”

That means his 17 employees will be out of work right after Christmas.

Regina Gianfagna is the kitchen manager, “It's kind of like losing a piece of your family,” she says.

But they do understand. Nick Thompson is a cook.

“I make more than the minimum wage,” says Thompson, “and I would want my wage to increase accordingly.  It's too high of a jump.”

His decision has garnered criticism on social media, with some saying the wage hike is just an excuse to close shop.

“If you can’t run a business and pay the minimum wage,” tweets Lauren Dobson-Hughes, “you can’t run a business.”

“Don’t blame the minimum wage hike,” tweets Sean Devine, “This owner has been trying to sell his restaurant for the past two years. He’s using the wage hike as an excuse to close his doors.”

“To all those local restaurateurs that said a fair living wage couldn't be done well, frankly you are full of s***”, tweets Union Local 613.

Across town at the Chances R restaurant, the Christmas parties are in full swing.  Owner Mike Bouris says his restaurant employs about 65 people, half of whom make the minimum wage and will be getting that raise in January. The other half already got a raise last month.

“I think it's for the better,” Bouris says, “I’m ecstatic we will pay our team more money.  I hope raising pricing, that everyone is okay with that and it's business as usual.”

But even some of the employees here wonder what other costs will rise with their boost in pay?

Lydia Bastien is a server at Chances R, “The difference we are making in the increase will be spent elsewhere.”

“The wages should go up,” says customer Dorothy Kruger, “because some of these people can't earn decent living.  How can you live on what these people are making?”

Customer Fern Hutt says she understands prices at the restaurant will rise as a result, “It doesn’t bother me,” she says.

Peter Besserer isn't convinced about that so he's decided to pack it in before he finds out the hard way.

“I don’t know what I’ll do after this,” he says, “I'm looking for a job, if anyone wants to hire an old coot like me.”

Besserer admits this is a timely decision on his part.  He had tried to sell his restaurant a couple of years ago.  Now, his lease is up at the end of December, so rather than signing another four years lease, he has decided to close his restaurant at the end of the year.