ST. CLOUD -- After being forced to shut down for several months last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the big challenge facing bars and restaurants now is finding enough workers to run their businesses.

Scott Widor is the Vice President of the St. Cloud Area Hospitality Association. He says, as the weather warms up a lot of customers are anxious for patio season, but getting those patios open isn't as simple as nice mild days.

We never had problems finding front-of-the-house folks, servers and bartenders, and now we're even having a problem finding those.  I know certain restaurants around town, including mine, will probably not open up their patios until we can get more people to work.

Widor says between his two restaurants, Blue Line South and Sartell, he could use at least 10 more employees.

He says as more folks get vaccinated, and with the weather warming up, customers are ready to go out but serving them has proven to be a challenge.

People are starting to come out again, but if you can't have enough of a team to take care of the guests the way we want to you just can't accommodate that many people.  Even at the 75 percent capacity we're at right now, we're finding sometimes we don't open up some tables because we don't have enough people to take care of them.

The Park Diner in Waite Park posted on their Facebook page that they are operating at limited hours from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. because they can't find enough staff to expand to full hours.

Hello friends! Just an update on Park Diner... we will continue to operate limited hours (8 am to 2 pm) until we are...

Posted by Park Diner on Monday, April 19, 2021

The problem of a lack of workers is not localized to the St. Cloud metro area, Widor says he recently participated in a restaurant owner's think tank with owners from across the country and the lack of workers was the main topic of conversation.

Current COVID-19 restrictions on bars and restaurants in Minnesota are 75 percent capacity and a closing time of 11:00 p.m.

Widor says he realizes it's not a problem specific to the restaurant industry.  The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development says right now there are over 100,000 job postings in the state.

Last week the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development said the state's unemployment rate has dropped to 4.2 percent. DEED says Minnesota's labor force participation rate right now is just 67.8 percent, down from 70.2 percent in February of last year before the pandemic.

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