Minnesota’s hospitality industry continues to suffer from government COVID-19 measures
After being forced to shut down for several months last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the big challenge facing bars and restaurants now is finding enough workers to run their businesses.
Scott Widor is the Vice President of the St. Cloud Area Hospitality Association. He says, as the weather warms up a lot of customers are anxious for patio season, but getting those patios open isn’t as simple as nice mild days.
“We never had problems finding front-of-the-house folks, servers and bartenders, and now we’re even having a problem finding those. I know certain restaurants around town, including mine, will probably not open up their patios until we can get more people to work.”
He says as more folks get vaccinated, and with the weather warming up, customers are ready to go out but serving them has proven to be a challenge.
“People are starting to come out again, but if you can’t have enough of a team to take care of the guests the way we want to you just can’t accommodate that many people. Even at the 75 percent capacity we’re at right now, we’re finding sometimes we don’t open up some tables because we don’t have enough people to take care of them.
The Park Diner in Waite Park posted on their Facebook page that they are operating at limited hours from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. because they can’t find enough staff to expand to full hours.
The problem of a lack of workers is not localized to the St. Cloud metro area, Widor says he recently participated in a restaurant owner’s think tank with owners from across the country and the lack of workers was the main topic of conversation.
Indeed, there are lots of jobs around. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development says that there are over 100,000 job postings in the state. Yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS), there were 9,700 fewer Minnesotans employed in March 2021 than there were in September 2020. How do we explain this?
As I wrote on Monday, increased unemployment benefits are preventing employers from hiring. I repeated a point I made in January:
If unemployment insurance offers people an income comparable to working, many of them will opt not to work. This is especially true if that work could be taken at any moment by government edict.
Minnesota’s hospitality industry is, thus, hit with a double whammy. First, when they offer an income, employers are competing with the government’s vastly expanded and extended unemployment benefits. Second, the hospitality industry has been the prime target of Gov. Walz’ random and unscientific shutdowns. Why take a job in a bar or restaurant when he might simply take it away from you again by executive diktat?
John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.