Why some Washington restaurants face a labor shortage

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Just as diners are finally coming back, many Washington restaurants cannot find employees to serve them.

BURLINGTON, Wash. – Financial comeback is finally on track at Burlington’s Railroad pub and pizza. The customers, eager for normality, occupy the seats.

There is only one problem.

“We’re just looking for someone who wants to work,” pub owner Nick Crandall said.

Washington’s hospitality industry lost 140,000 jobs during the pandemic and less than 40% of those workers returned.

Crandall is at least 10 people between the pub and the neighbor Train Wreck Bar & Grill, which he also owns. He was forced to hire people with no experience, while considering paying them more to encourage them to re-enter the labor market.

But it creates an unwanted ripple effect.

“We have meetings to increase the pay scale, but then the price of food and alcohol for the customer is going to go up,” Crandall said. “Everything is up. People have to pay more, so they have to earn more.”

The shortage is fueled by some former restaurant workers who are finding new, more stable careers. Others have returned to school.

Crandall believes the extra $ 300 in weekly federal unemployment benefits is largely to blame.

“How can you keep giving extra unemployment? I don’t blame people for taking it. The government gives them extra money. Why would they want to go back to work? They make more money by staying at home, but something has to give, ”Crandall said.

According to Department of Employment Security economist Anneliese Vance-Sherman, there is a lot more involvement, as people decide when and when to return to work.

“We have seen a lot of instability. There are constraints on the availability of child care services. Online or hybrid schooling has an impact if people are available for work. There is the virus itself, as well as concerns about his own health and that of his family. “

Vance-Sherman said one thing that would likely push people back into the labor pool is to reinstate the requirement for people to look for work in order to collect unemployment benefits.

Governor Jay Inslee has not been told when this could happen.

All of this comes as tulip season is in full bloom in Skagit County. In a typical year, tulips and tourists bring Skagit Valley over $ 60 million. It’s like Christmas shopping season for restaurants and other small businesses nearby.

RELATED: Peak Bloom: A Sneak Peek of the 2021 Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Too few restaurant workers could mean long waits and less business, reducing desperately needed profits.

Then there are still concerns about a possible return to phase 2 in Skagit County, with a resumption of coronavirus cases.

RELATED: Skagit County May Return to Phase 2 If COVID-19 Trends Continue to Rise

It’s yet another hub for virus-weary restaurants like Railroad Pub & Pizza.

“I can’t go back anymore,” Crandall said. “We just have to keep riding and whatever happens it happens.”

RELATED: Washington Opens Window On Indoor Dining With New ‘Outdoor’ Rules



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