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Some restaurants forced to close because of lack of workers

Bars and restaurants are hiring, but no one is applying.

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — Just weeks after the state relaxed COVID-19 restrictions on bars and restaurants, some businesses are having to close again because they can't find any help.

Folks looking for lunch at Downtown Deli on Spruce Street in Scranton found a locked door and a note from the owner saying the restaurant was forced to close for the day because no one applied for any of its job openings.

The owner wrote that they might have to consider closing every Monday if they can't find the help.

This is the latest problem plaguing bars and restaurants in northeastern and central Pennsylvania.

At Luigi's Pizza in Olyphant, there is a sign on the door saying that the dining room is closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. The dining room is still closed even though restrictions have been eased.

"Without the proper staff, we can't give the proper services, and in our history of 31 years, we've never had to deal with something like this," co-owner Vincenzo Cicco said.

Cicco told Newswatch 16 that surviving the COVID-19 restrictions was difficult enough, but now looking for workers has become like a second full-time job for him.

"It's proving to be extraordinarily difficult to try to find any staff, and the staff that I have, chose to either not wait it out or try something new," he added.

Business owners blame several factors. Students aren't applying for part-time work, and older workers are choosing not to risk exposure to the virus. But the owners said increased unemployment benefits is a big reason why they can't find help.

"That's the hardest part right now. It is like it's a new pandemic because we get applicants like crazy, but they don't show up for the interview. Or the rare one who does show up for the interview, then they don't show up for their first day on the job," said Tracy Bradshaw, owner of O-Town Bar & Grill in Olyphant.

Bradshaw is asking some employees to work six days a week and has even recruited her family to wait tables in order to keep the doors open.

"We're doing well right now, and it's heartbreaking that I even have to contemplate some days closing down because I can't get anybody to come in," she said.