DENVER (CBS4)– The streets in Denver were busy on Friday. And there were many smiles.
“You know what I like about it, that’s the first sign of life,” said David Howard of ScooTours Denver.
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He likened it to a Roaring 20s comeback: “It’s great to see the officers directing traffic. It’s like we’re back to normal. “
The Colorado Crossroads volleyball tournament was back with 20,000 visitors. That meant hotel stays and restaurant bookings. The first major event to return to Denver as part of the pandemic will add an estimated $ 13.5 million to the economy.
At Stout Street Social, General Manager Hunter Shumaker had a broom cleaned outside the front door.
“I used to spend about an hour behind the bar washing glasses,” he said as he worked.
The restaurant had energy. Waiters crowded. The manager greeted the people. They couldn’t hire hostesses.
“The pool isn’t that great right now,” explained Shumaker. “And you’d think everyone would be looking for jobs right now, but it’s not there.”
In a month of posting on Indeed and Craigslist, he said, “I had no host applicants.”
Restaurant consultant John Imbergamo says there are several reasons.
“All of the restaurants had skeleton crews for most of the pandemic. and they all hire people at the same time. Everyone is looking for the same line chef hosts and waitresses. Things like this. “
In addition, he says, the terraces open when the weather is good, and that means staffing. Restaurants like Stout Street Social will be able to reduce the distance between tables from the current six feet in a few weeks. That also means more capacity and more people. Shumaker says they likely won’t reach full capacity to make sure customers feel safe, but they look forward to it.
“And third,” added Imbergamo, “there’s that element of the $ 300 additional unemployment benefit that may make it a little easier for some people to stay at home.”
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Several restaurant owners have suggested that returning to work is not a good idea. Imbergamo doesn’t think that’s a big part of the problem.
“There’s no doubt that there will be some people who are afraid of work or have childcare issues that have changed due to the pandemic.”
There are also some who left the business during the pandemic.
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment says the state’s employment level increased by 46,100 jobs in the first three months of the year, according to the latest available figures.
“Approximately 66% of that increase in employment was in the lodging and catering industry (30,400 jobs),” senior economist Ryan Gedney replied to an email.
He also noted that the unvaccinated and younger people who dominate the industry may have been vaccinated later. “
While older adults had had vaccination options for some time, vaccinations weren’t generally available for the Colorado population 16 and older until early April. This could affect the labor supply of industries such as restaurants, which rely on a relatively younger population of workers than most industries. “
Imbergamo says he watches over job postings. Some may forget that jobs were also unfilled before the pandemic.
“Before the pandemic on a Monday, there would be 200 hospitality vacancies. The other day it was 80. We are probably not in as bad a situation as we were back then. Probably because there were fewer restaurants. “
But as Colorado revs up, there seems to be pressure to raise wages to attract workers. Running restaurants is becoming more and more expensive and that could also be passed on to guests.
Shumaker was still smiling as he swept the floor and watched his staff at work. He agreed that it was a changed business.
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But coming back: “It feels good. It feels good.”