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Demand Roaring Back For Limo Service Industry, But Workers Are Scarce

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Several industries that squeezed through the earlier height of COVID-19 are now struggling to stay afloat with minimal employees.

We told you about the shortage of bus and rideshare drivers recently. On Wednesday, CBS 2's Lauren Victory showed us the toll taken on limo service.

After three decades as a chauffeur, Sami Ayyad's career hit the brakes in March 2020. He was laid off after rides dried up.

"I needed to make money," said Ayyad, who joined a rideshare service to bridge the gap in work. "Bad experience, ha!"

The rollercoaster ride for Windy City Limo was also a trying situation.

"A normal April for us is in the $3 million range. We did $58,000 in April [2020]," said George Jacobs, owner of Windy City Limousine and Bus.

More than 100 vehicles sat idle for months.

The tides turned when college and professional sports started to come back. Jacobs breathed a little easier when corporate clients began booking again too.

McDonald's for example, uses his buses every day to shuttle employees to and from the West Loop.

The National Limousine Association promoted the safety and privacy of chauffeur services in a countrywide campaign this spring. That was when weddings and events started to return as well.

By this summer, limo companies everywhere were seeing a surge in business.

"The phone is ringing off the hook with people who are also being creative. They didn't want to have people use public transportation," said Jacobs, who explained some clients are now scheduling bus pickups for employees so they feel more comfortable returning to the office.

It's a broken business that finally seemed fixed. But there's another wrench.

"There's only so many pounds of potatoes I can fit into this sack," said Jacobs.

That is his metaphor for severe understaffing that forces his and other limo companies to turn down business.

"I'm not surprised. I'm sure a lot of drivers found other jobs," said Ayyad, who happily accepted his old chauffeur position back from Windy City Limo about two weeks ago. "The tips I used to get is more than working a whole day with a [rideshare]."

Windy City Limo still needs to convert about 100 more car drivers to meet its current demand.

The company offers health benefits and a 401(k). More information on open positions can be found here.

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