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LoDo restaurant struggles with staffing shortages ahead of Opening Day

Blake Street Tavern near Coors Field is hoping to hire 20 people ahead of Opening Day for the Rockies.

DENVER — Much like baseball, the businesses surrounding Coors Field in downtown Denver hope to have a solid lead-off to the season. 

"Well, it depends on when the Rockies are winning or losing, but Opening Day is absolutely our busiest day of the year by far," Blake Street Tavern owner Chris Fuselier said. "We always have to rebuild our staff when it comes to baseball. It's been more challenging this year because it's our first normal Opening Day in three years."

Right now, he has more than 105 people employed to work the large restaurant and bar, but said they're still short 20 people as Opening Day approaches. 

"And until we get to 125, we're kind of like if you were an eight-cylinder car run on seven cylinders. So we really need to find 20 good people. And it's been a struggle. We're struggling to hire staff just like any other restaurant," he said. "We're going to have literally 5,000 people come in through the door that day. It's going to be nuts. And there's only so many people. So we're having to really rely on a lot of ex-employees that have gotten other jobs that are going to help us out."

Credit: Luis de Leon
Chris Fuselier, the owner of Blake Street Tavern, sits in the restaurant portion of the tavern.

Before the pandemic, he said, filling the positions for a busy baseball season was doable, but now it's different.

"I think a lot of people are cautious about our industry," he said. 

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said this week that hospitality and leisure added 2,300 payroll jobs in February. 

The Colorado Business Economic Outlook for 2022 said hospitality and leisure would grow in employment levels this year, but projects the industry may not reach pre-pandemic levels until at least 2023. 

Credit: Luis de Leon

Fuselier said he initially tried offering bonuses for referrals to staff, but saw minimal success. He said they enjoy hiring students to help out with part-time work, and full-time work during the summer.

"So I think that's a segment that we're really going to go focus more is on students that need the jobs and we accommodate their school schedules," he said. 

Overall, he's confident his staff will be able to handle the demand, as they've adjusted to shortages with popular events, like the St. Patrick's Day parade. 

"This isn't our first rodeo. Now, the difficult thing is that we have to remember 'what did we do three years ago?' And that's the tough part," he said. 

A few other businesses near Coors Field told 9NEWS that they were either doing alright with staffing levels, or were looking to hire just a few people.

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