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Some Valley restaurants struggling to bounce back during COVID-19 pandemic

Restaurant covid-19 pandemic
Posted at 9:45 PM, Oct 07, 2021

A Scottsdale restaurant has five employees and is finding it near impossible to hire workers.

There are currently five job openings at The Bourbon Cellar in North Scottsdale. Currently, there are only five employees who help run the restaurant, including the owner himself.

"I never thought I would be in this situation where I would have too much business and not enough employees," said Doug Smith, Owner of The Bourbon Room.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith lost ten employees, but nearly a year and a half after Arizona Governor Doug Ducey restricted dine-in service at restaurants, he has had zero luck hiring any new employees.

"Where are people working? I have a lot of customers who come in and ask that same question. Where are people working? I don't know," said Smith.

Smith has closed for lunch, stopped serving to-go orders, and has a self-imposed capacity cap of about 60 percent of his normal capacity simply because he doesn't have the staff to handle the demand. And he's not alone, many restaurants are wondering why so many jobs are not being filled.

Despite having five employees, on the third Wednesday of every month, Smith opens his kitchen to feed first responders, veterans, active service members and anyone who wants a meal absolutely free.

"This is my whole life's work here. This is my job and I love being able to serve all these folks that want to come in here and eat my food."

The Stand Burger Shoppe in Arcadia currently has 20 employees, down from 60 before the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant is only doing drive-thru orders because there aren't enough workers to fully serve people inside the restaurant.

Juxtaposed to these two restaurants, Phoenix City Grille has survived the pandemic with its staff intact thanks to its loyal customer base, who stepped up financially during the 2020 holidays to support the workers.

"I normally give a kitchen bonus for Christmas. I couldn't afford to do that last year, at a customer suggestion we did a fundraiser and our customers chipped in," said Sheldon Knapp, owner of Phoenix City Grille.

"We've been very fortunate. We've kept our staff through this whole thing," said Knapp.