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With capacity restrictions set to end soon, bar and restaurant owners in Charlotte face worker shortage

The governor is set to lift capacity and distancing restrictions on June 1, but restaurants say they can't find employees to help with the expected boost in business

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — What should have been welcome news of the governor revoking capacity and distancing restrictions in June has become yet another hurdle for restaurant owners. 

"It’ll be good, but I need help,” said Angelo Tsepelis, the general manager of French Quarter Restaurant. 

After operating with a limited staff over the pandemic, Tsepelis said now it's hard to get them back.

"We’re putting ads on paper and on Facebook and online," Tsepelis said. "You know with government funding, it's hard for people to want to come back to work."

Tsepelis said some former employees have told them they're still not comfortable with coming back.

"It’s not just us, it's all the bars and restaurants," Tsepelis said, "they're having the same problem.” 

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to the Defenders team by emailing money@wcnc.com.

Queen City Craft and Gourmet owner Charles Read has even increased pay.

“We are now paying dishwashers what we used to pay cooks, we're paying cooks what we used to pay managers, and we're paying managers more than we ever have by a lot," Read said.

“If you shut down and then tried to get people back, God help you,” said Dilworth Neighborhood Grille owner Matt Wohlfart.

Wohlfart said a lot of his staffers have been with him long term, and believes it's in part because of benefits.

"We have a 401k plan, we have health insurance,” Wohlfart said.

Still, he's also added more benefits to ensure they stay around.

"Throughout the pandemic, we’ve guaranteed servers a level of tips, so if they ever went below a certain amount we stepped in," Wohlfart said.

Wolhfart believes it could lead to a market where businesses have to incentivize workers or boost pay more than ever.

"If you’ve got people who’ll work for this amount, then that’s what it’ll be," Wohlfart said. 

Wohlfart said if it comes to that, we may just see a rise in the cost of food to offset it.

"It has to come from somewhere,” Wohlfart said.

The restrictions are set to be lifted on June 1. The owners say they hope the workforce will have a change of heart in coming back so they can be fully staffed before then. 

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Contact Lana Harris at lharris@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and on Instagram.

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