02:07 - Source: CNN
The Grimes family restaurant

Story highlights

Alison Lundergan Grimes is campaigning on raising the minimum wage

The restaurant owned by her family pays tipped staffers minimum wage

Grimes to CNN: "My family is not in this race"

(CNN) —  

In her race to defeat Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Alison Lundergan Grimes has barnstormed Kentucky, talking up her support for raising the minimum wage and criticizing the GOP’s so-called war on women.

But the restaurant owned by Grimes’ family doesn’t always practice what she preaches, and Kentucky Republicans have been happy to point that out.

On the campaign trail, Grimes said recently, “I’m fighting for all Kentuckians, all working Americans across this nation. I don’t believe $7.25 an hour raises a family of four above the poverty level.”

But documents and interviews with employees reveal that, like many restaurants, her family’s burger joint pays some tipped staffers minimum wage.

We caught up with Grimes in Kentucky and asked how she can advocate for raising the minimum wage, when that’s all her family’s restaurant pays some workers.

“Listen, my family is not in this race. I’m on the ballot. And as much as Mitch McConnell wants to attack my family, he has from the beginning, I’m going to stay focused on the issues,” she told CNN. “And for me, it’s about making sure that hard working Kentuckians have a bright future. And that future includes having not just a minimum wage, but a living wage.”

Of course, servers can often make more than minimum wage after tips. And while Grimes doesn’t own the restaurant, she did do legal work for the business, signing incorporation documents and representing it in a lawsuit.

But minimum wage isn’t the only issue dogging Grimes’ family business. Hugh Jass Burgers – say it out loud to get the joke – has menu items like “Charlotte’s Rack, sure to be voted biggest rack” named after Grimes’ mom and “Abby’s Hugh Jass,” a burger named after her sister. They also sell souvenirs like an apron with “Check Out My Buns” emblazoned across it.

The restaurant’s approach has raised eyebrows, especially since Grimes’ camp accused the GOP of sexism.

“I am the Kentucky woman who my Republican colleagues in this state so gentlemanly refer to as an empty dress,” Grimes said.

When we tried to ask Grimes about her family’s use of double entendre, she refused to answer, letting her security detail lead her away from reporters.

CNN’s Curt Devine contributed to this report.