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The struggle to hire staff as bars and restaurants add hours and capacity at the same time

Rita Price owns a bar in Five Points, and she'd like to get back to being open seven days a week again, like she was pre-pandemic, but she can't find staff.

DENVER — As restrictions ease, vaccinations ramp up and the weather warms, bars and restaurants are coming across a challenge they didn't expect: finding employees.  

“And I thought I was just going to get bombarded because for the past year I’ve gotten resumes and you know, of course just people desperate for work," said Rita Price, the owner of the Five Points bar Rita's Law.

But when she was finally ready to hire more people to staff more hours, she realized she couldn't find anyone. 

“We’ve been through tough, but just the irony of it is really what’s getting me because I’m finally ready, everybody’s ready, and there’s no one to work," Price said. 

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The Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) said they are hearing of this problem across the industry as restaurants and bars all need to hire more staff at the same time as restrictions ease and vaccinations ramp up. 

CRA's March impact survey showed restaurants' staffing is still down 33%, which could translate to 78,000 restaurant employees still out of work. 

Price isn't sure why she can't find anyone. 

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“It’s really hard because everybody’s like 'we're so excited,'" Price said. "Well I don’t know what to do because I can’t open more days or more full time because I don’t have, you know, enough people." 

If someone wants to work at Rita's Law, Price says she's looking for bartenders and kitchen staff. She'll consider people without industry experience too. 

“We have such a great time," she said. "And I’m looking for people who have integrity and do the right thing because that’s really important, and has been to us."

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