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Some restaurants struggle to find employees as Washington allows return to full capacity

COVID-19 restrictions caused the restaurant industry to lay off employees. Now, they are hard pressed to find people interested in working.

Business owners in Washington state are excited to return to full capacity Wednesday after more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions, but some businesses are also dealing with another bump in the road: a hiring crisis.

Michael Chambers, the owner of Calypso Restaurant in Edmonds, said he is more than ready and eager to have his business back at full capacity.

“The roller coaster of stress and then also the employees, hiring them and then having to let them go, hiring them again, the yo-yo has just been killing everybody,” said Chambers. “It’s nice to have that light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s real close right now, and I think that there’s a pretty good buzz about it.”

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But there’s one big issue. Chambers can’t find the employees to work.

Chambers said as COVID-19 restrictions changed over the months, he had to hire, lay off, and rehire employees repeatedly.

This was a problem many business owners faced, causing some distrust in the industry and caused many to leave the industry altogether.

“I’m hoping that after the Fourth of July weekend, we start seeing some more resumes come across our desk,” said Chambers. “I’ve got ads out on Facebook, Indeed, Poached. I mean, we’ve spent a couple hundred dollars a month just trying to find people to come work.”

Chambers said he needs to hire between six and 10 employees to be open at full capacity and hopefully make up some of the revenue losses over the past year.

He said some of the things he took on during the pandemic will stick around like hand sanitizer for customers. Chambers also plans to build a gazebo in two parking spots to keep outdoor dining a permanent option.

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