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COVID Recovery: Restaurant Owners Facing Labor Shortage Woes As COVID-19 Capacity Limits Are Lifted

WALNUT CREEK (CBS SF) -- As California plans to reopen the economy on June 15th by removing almost all COVID-19 health restrictions, businesses that survived the pandemic are facing a new challenge: labor shortage.

A lot of businesses complained they don't have enough staff right now to handle the limited capacity. Once everything reopens in about three weeks, many business owners said they will be in big trouble.

"It's really hard to find people. It just feels like a lot of people don't want to work," said Arash Ghasemi, chef owner at Main Street Kitchen and Bar.

Ghasemi said he needed to hire at least eight more people to handle the current rush of customers.

"We are looking for manager, bartender, bar manager, busser, server, cook, the whole thing," said Ghasemi.

He worried about next month's reopening because that means he'll have even more customers. A good problem that he needs to solve soon.

"If we are short-staffed, we just have to going to close a section or two," said Ghasemi.

Businesses in the service industry across the country are dealing with staffing shortages, especially hotels and restaurants. Some restaurants in downtown Walnut Creek said they had to turn away customers because they don't have enough servers.

"Everything, back of the house, front of the house, food runners, hosts, anything," said Aimee Bobet, a manager at 1515 Restaurant Lounge.

Over at XYZ Matrix, a smoke and skate shop, the manager said only two people applied in the last month since they posted a hiring sign.

"Not a lot of applicants are applying for job which makes it difficult to pick and choose," said Danny Valdez of XYZ Matrix.

There were hiring signs all over the East Bay. Some businesses even offered a sign-on bonus. High school student Isabela De La Cruz just got hired at Main Street Kitchen and Bar with no experience.

"It's amazing to find jobs so easily and they really take their time to make sure you know how everything works around here. So it's great," said De La Cruz.

Employers blamed the federal unemployment benefits, saying some people make more money sitting at home.

"It has to do with that free check that you get every two weeks," said Ghasemi.

"Maybe when unemployment ends, then we'll get everybody coming back," said Bobet.

But some labor advocates argued if people are doing better on unemployment, it means they were underpaid to start with. But business owners said they were offering good wages for the vacant manager positions.

Many businesses said anyone with a good attitude, willing to learn, and willing to work will be hired on the spot, no experience needed.

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