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Short-staffed bars and restaurants handle crowds during Stanley Cup Final

An employment report from the CDLE said Colorado added 1,800 jobs in leisure and hospitality last month. But some bars and restaurants are still struggling to hire.

DENVER — For a time on a Friday afternoon, the bar inside Celtic on Market in downtown Denver was nearly empty. 

It's a seemingly welcome break for how busy it usually is. 

“On a Monday afternoon at noon we had 200-230 people in here," said owner Noel Hickey, referring to when the bar was playing a World Cup qualifying match between Australia and Peru.

On that day, he says he and his wife had to improvise due to short staffing for cooks and bussers. 

"It was my wife and I...that was it for 200 people and every single one of them ate," he said. 

At one point during the night of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, he says they were at capacity, right around 400 people. 

So far, he says customers have been understanding and that he's typically prepared to improvise, as he will this weekend and as the Stanley Cup Final continues. 

“40 years plus in this business with my wife and we’re used to jumping into different situations and as long as customers…it’s explained – 'listen we’re pretty short staffed in the kitchen it might take a little longer,' people are very accepting," he said.

Credit: Luis de Leon
Noel Hickey, the owner of Celtic on Market, stands in the basement portion of the bar.

A significant labor shortage in Colorado's hospitality industry isn't new, according to the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA), who says it's in part due to the expansion of the dining scene.

"Competition for workers is relentless," a statement from a CRA spokesperson read. "At present, there are 15,600+ foodservice and hospitality industry job openings in Colorado and the unemployment rate is at a low 3.5%, which means there are almost two openings for every available worker."

Eight out of 10 operators the association surveys say they are understaffed, the spokesperson said. 

"And with the Avs games driving more business to restaurants and bars, the situation is worsening. When you go out to your favorite local restaurant or bar to watch the Avs play, please be kind and patient with the people serving you. They are working hard and surely doing their best.”

Meanwhile, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment released their May employment report Friday, stating that the leisure and hospitality industry added around 1,800 jobs in the month of May. 

The report says the unemployment rate in Colorado dropped to 3.5%

Credit: Luis de Leon
Celtic on Market

Overall, Hickey says he's excited for Saturday and believes the foot traffic will be good for downtown. 

“If we’re getting in the weeds and we need to dig out of it we just explain to the customers, 'this is what we’re gonna do,'” he said. 

Stoney's Uptown location told 9NEWS over the phone that they're in good shape staffing level wise as the Stanley Cup Final continues. 

The General Manager of Wally's Wisconsin Tavern and Rhein Haus said they're fully staffed for the Cup, and feel they're lucky to be in such a position.

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