12/10/15  •  Fort Collins

Ryan Wallace: Pub owner goes against the grain with tip policy

Ryan Wallace isn’t afraid to go against the grain. And his business is no exception. Wallace came to Fort Collins after working with the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan and set out to create one of the best bacon-and-whiskey establishments in the country in 2013. While the pub at 2608 S. Timberline Road has grown over the last two years, one thing that has shrunk is staff’s tips. That’s because in September, William Oliver’s put its employees on hourly wages, eschewing the tip-driven system used by many eateries. Wallace said he started William Oliver’s to foster a strong community around his passion for good drinks, food and friendship. He had hoped the no-tipping policy would strengthen that community — creating an efficient business model where staff and guests would be treated with equal respect. To Wallace’s surprise, some members of the Fort Collins community did not support his decision. People were upset, confused and some swore off the pub. Email became his personal hell. “My heart felt a burden of hatred, and it seemed to be coming from everywhere,” he said. “I swear, I aged so much that week.” The negative reaction shook Wallace’s confidence in his business model. But Wallace stood by his decision to align his business with what he calls the “microimprovement theory” — the idea that if everyone makes small improvements to the world, the rising tide will raise all ships. “Progress isn’t possible without change. Not all who change will choose progress,” he said. “In the midst of a social experiment, my wife taught me an important lesson: We are here for a short time and can’t control our destiny. We just need to lift each other up.”

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Ryan Wallace

Ryan Wallace is the owner of William Oliver's Publick House in Fort Collins.

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