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Restaurants in both Illinois and Iowa experience labor shortage

Both the owners at Twin Span Brewing and Pagalo's Pizzeria and Gelato Cafe say they're short-staffed, as applications have stopped rolling in because of COVID-19.

Management at Twin Span Brewing are calling a labor shortage in the restaurant industry 'a new pandemic.' Executive Chef Juan Hernandez says they've had trouble staffing their kitchen and dining room because of the pandemic. 

"We're struggling and we do our best with the little, few crew we have," Hernandez says. "Right now, we're probably at a quarter of the staff (of what) we want to be."

Hernandez says applications are not coming in as they look to hire about a dozen more people to work in the kitchen and dining room.

"I'm sure (for) some people it's health wise, (and) they're scared to come out to places," Hernandez says.

Across the river in Milan, Owner John Hoffman at Pagalo's Pizzeria and Gelato Cafe says he's frustrated by the labor shortage.

"Ideally, we'd like to have six more employees on staff to feel comfortable," Hoffman says.

He says another reason for the shortage may be a lack of incentive. Right now, workers collecting unemployment benefits can get an extra $300 in COVID-19 relief pay.

"Our biggest struggle right is trying to find people that are willing and able to work," Hoffman says. "It's offering more people the opportunity to stay home. In a way, we can't blame them, but at the same time, we have to be responsible with money."  

Hoffman says he's looking forward to September when the COVID-19 relief pay expires. 

"We hope there's an end to it soon," he says.

Both Hernandez and Hoffman say this shortage is affecting their customer service. 

"Unfortunately, we can't keep up, but we do the best we can," Hernandez says. "Sometimes it's too much. Sometimes we say we're not going to serve more people because we don't want to kill the staff we have already. 

Hoffman and Hernandez are encouraging customers to stay patient as their staff work overtime to continue daily dine-in service.

"We're the backbone of the community and we'd like to continue to do that," Hoffman says.