Lark Street restaurants welcome customers but struggle to staff

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — All capacity limitations and social distancing guidelines were lifted for businesses across New York State on June 15. However, many restaurants are still struggling due to staffing shortages.

It was a morning to celebrate for the owners of the newest restaurant on Lark Street—Adani’s Kitchen.

“I’ve been thinking about like 30 years ago when I opened my cleaning business,” Reyes said.

Alexandra Reyes used her business—Spotless Sisters Cleaning Service—to raise enough funds to buy her property on Lark Street in November 2020. She said she wasn’t going to let a pandemic stop her and was willing to take the leap of faith to thrive in the restaurant industry.

“We know this is going to be over one day, and we will just hang in there until everything is over. And you know, things are going to get back to normal, and we’re going to be okay,” Reyes said. “We’re going to need a lot more employees soon, though.”

Across the street, Savoy Taproom is thrilled with the number of customers coming back, but they said they’re still facing the same issue with or without the lifted restrictions.

“The biggest issue we’re having is staffing. We’re trying to get good people in to push out the great food we’re doing right now,” Dean Hillicoss, Executive Chef for Savoy Taproom, said.

Hillicoss said they’ve had to get rid of late-night hours and weekend brunch services. Additionally, the owners of Savoy purchased a second restaurant on Broadway that has yet to open because of staffing. Therefore, Copper Crow will be left empty until they can get an adequate number of employees to open their doors. 

“When you come in, you get healthcare, reasonable pay, flexible hours. Just trying to get people in the door and a life they want to live and have a job that they love it,” Hillicoss said.

The May jobs report from the Department of Labor revealed that wages are increasing in the hospitality industry as employers hope to incentivize workers back to the job. Some states, like Alabama and Alaska, saw the April jobs report as proof that it’s the right time to cut enhanced unemployment benefits on June 19. 

“What’s the incentive to go to work when you can make more money upfront staying home?” Dan McCoy, Albany County Executive, said. “That extra 300 dollars you get a week, let’s keep it in play but say if you go back to work you keep it”

Whether struggling to get childcare or taking time to reevaluate tackling a new industry, Mccoy said something needs to be done on a state level to incentivize people back to work as they get back on their feet.

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