Local restaurants feel Covid-19 labor pinch

Updated: Apr. 5, 2021 at 3:41 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Local restaurants are thrilled to have restrictions lifted to bring in more business. Many say they’re having problems getting back up to full staff due to federal unemployment programs.

After a busy holiday weekend, local restaurants now realize they have to staff up.

“We could easily hire 20 to 24 people today, I need them,” said Drago’s owner Tommy Cvitanovich.

But getting staff back to full strength while many draw lucrative unemployment benefits proves to be difficult.

“I could use about 30 percent more employees, I lost 20 to 30 percent,” said Andrea’s owner Andrea Apuzzo.

“At the end of the day $547 a week is too much. People stay home and we have to compete against that,” said Cvitanovich.

He says there are a few things that state can do when it comes to helping him get his workforce to its former self.

“One of the things I talked to the governor about is Louisiana workforce development. Those guys need to do their due diligence and make sure when someone says hey, I can’t get a job, let’s check and see if you were here here and here,” Cvitanovich said.

Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng says it might take a little while for employees to return.

“It took us phases to get in and I think it will take steps to get out of it,” said Sheng.

Some hope to take advantage of the labor shortage to get into more desirable jobs.

“I would love to work here, it’s close to my home and convenient and they’re always busy,” said Michelle Gelpi.

Gelpi hopes to strike while the iron is hot, and land a new job before the enhanced unemployment benefits run out later this year.

Drago’s owner says recent stimulus checks have also caused more people to want to go out and spend money in restaurants like his, making the labor shortage that much more challenging.

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