Some Lafayette restaurant owners worry staff won't return

Posted at 12:41 AM, Apr 29, 2020

LAFAYETTE — Some restaurants are expected to get busier by the end of the week.

Starting Friday, Governor Edwards is allowing restaurants to open outdoor seating areas to customers without service.

Restaurant owners now have even more on their plates, including the possibility of losing employees who could make more money by collecting unemployment.

Randy Daniel, the owner of La Pizzeria and president of the Lafayette chapter of the Louisiana Restaurant Association, admits there is some worry but doesn't believe the issue will have long-term effects.

"I think when the time comes and we're able to open back up and give the hours back to our employees, I think they're going to be happy to come," said Daniels.

Other restaurant owners say they have the hours, but they don't have the staff.

"Either we haven't heard from people, or the allure is there to continue to collect, probably, the unemployment they were approved for during that two-week period in the beginning," said owner of Antoni's Italian Café Holly Cure.

Cure says when they first closed their doors to dine-in customers, business was slow, forcing them to scale back on hours and employees.

Those employees had the opportunity to file for unemployment benefits, some earning up to $800.

"I can understand the temptation to collect that because the benefits are so high right now, more than we could pay in a normal weekly period," said Cure. "At the same time, it is a struggle for us."

The struggle is finding the appropriate amount of staff members to accommodate the business Cure says is increasing each week.

What the future looks like after the pandemic is still unclear.

"Can we return to lunches right off the bat? I don't think so," said Cure. "We're trying to actively figure that out, but that's sort of the thing that you wake up at 5 a.m. thinking about."
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