COVID-19 deals another blow to restaurant industry as businesses report staffing shortages

Some owners attribute shortage to stimulus bonus
Posted at 10:49 PM, Jun 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 01:08:31-04

IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Just when you thought the COVID-19 crisis had simmered down, it's dealing yet another blow to the restaurant industry.

Just weeks after reopening, many restaurant and bar owners say they can't find enough workers to provide good service to those looking for it.

“We’ve put out posts on Facebook, Craigslist, Indeed,” said Chris Verikas, owner of Mountain Prime Steakhouse in Idaho Springs. “It’s just crazy. I just don’t have the staff to accommodate everybody - to give everybody good service.”

It’s a first for Verikas, and other business owners in Idaho Springs say they’re dealing with similar staffing shortages.

"We've actually been closing for about an hour-and-a-half in between the lunch and dinner rush just to regroup and then to clean the place," Verikas said.

The crowds, like the Pfaff family from Wichita, Kansas - have come flooding back to the high country.

"We didn’t know what to expect,” said David Pfaff. “We were kind of hesitant and weren't sure if Colorado would open. So, we were happy to hear they did open."

In downtown Idaho Springs, city leaders have temporarily closed Miner Street allowing restaurants to expand outdoor seating to accommodate the crush of people.

"It really gained momentum the last two weekends,” Verikas said.

And while that is welcome news – Verikas says staffing remains the problem. He’s hired just 15 people when he needs double that.

"This government stimulus bonus of $600 bucks a week, I think is keeping people away," he said.

He says the government needs to stop incentivizing unemployment.

"I think big business is going to be just fine, but they're going to knock out these little guys. I mean, I thought COVID was going to kill us. This could be worse," Verikas said.

In the meantime, Mountain Prime’s scratch kitchen keeps rolling and they are using a new fogger to fog the dining room in between the lunch and dinner rush.

"It works to decontaminate and it just kills everything,” Verikas said. “And it just goes everywhere. Under tables. Under chairs. You don't know where everyone is touching."

They are also wanding the menus with UV light to decontaminate them between each guest.

“Businesses are doing great and they have money to pay people,” Verikas said. “More than you would make at home, but you have to work."