One Wheat Ridge business cut its hours and closed one day a week. Another reduced hours but had record sales volumes.
The two extremes are part of the local business response to staffing shortages and supply chain delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Neighborhood Gazette reached out to a variety of Wheat Ridge business types and sizes. The ones that responded were operating with fewer people and hours and had to adjust to supply and delivery issues.
Wage Hikes Cause Headaches
“Pretty brutal” was how Right Coast Pizza owner Mark Eskow called the issues the 10-year-old restaurant, at 7100 W. 38th Ave., had experienced.
“When we closed down during the early days of the pandemic and only had carry-out, we had good sales,” he said. “We didn’t lay off anyone and we started to see more business as restrictions eased. Now we’re into what seems the next phase with astronomical staff cost increases and continuing food cost increases.”
Eskow said when he started advertising for more workers, he received few applications. Then, at the start of 2021, Denver raised its minimum wage (from $12.85 to $14.77 an hour).
“I think Denver really inflated their minimum wage too soon and too much,” Eskow said. “When someone can drive 15 minutes or so and get maybe $3 more an hour, it really affects the surrounding areas.”
Eskow said he would have no problem paying a higher wage if it was the same everywhere. “But right now, I find it hard to justify when the people you’re hiring don’t have all the skills you need; that’s why they’re paid minimum wage, right?” he added. “Then the ones you do hire don’t always show up on time.”
Right Coast employs 12 full- and part-time workers, Eskow said.
He also noted Denver will again increase its minimum wage (to $15.87) with the new year, which will force him to pay higher wages that he doesn’t think Right Coast can afford.
Currently, Eskow said he sees more job applications, but most want to work only 20-24 hours a week and be paid $20 an hour and higher. “There seems to be a real disconnect between what people think they can ask for and how a business is really run,” he stated.
Right Coast also reduced its hours of operation from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. before the pandemic to 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Eskow added. Right Coast is also closed on Tuesdays, Eskow said, but hoped to resume every day hours next spring or summer. “It’s all a numbers game,” he added.
A couple of food suppliers have had issues this year, Eskow noted. Those were mostly due to a lack of truck drivers or food pickers, he said. Beer delivery companies have also lacked drivers.
“This whole thing has been challenging,” Eskow said. “I think people really need to know what’s going on and realize that businesses are not back to normal, far from it.”
Fewer Hours But Record Sales
Meanwhile, Jeff Hurlburt, the primary owner of Clancy’s Irish Pub, 7000 W. 38th Ave., said Clancy’s had record sales volumes. “That’s despite being open 22 hours less per week, so we’re seeing record volumes in less time,” Hurlburt said. “I was shocked to see that when we looked at the records.”
When the pandemic initially led businesses to close, customers were limited to online orders and deliveries. “When that ended, people really wanted to get out and we’ve just been very busy since we reopened,” Hurlburt added. “It’s just resonated with people.”
Clancy’s had been open until 2 a.m., but found the late hours were not busy enough to justify continuing, Hurlburt explained. Now, Clancy’s is open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Hurlburt said the staff of almost 20 people, all but two of them full-time, is making the same amount of money — “if not more” — as they did pre-pandemic.
“But it has been harder to find cooks, bartenders, waitresses because they can kind of write their own ticket,” he stated. “Food and beverage workers everywhere are looking at other industries that don’t require such long hours. It’s hard work; I know, I did it for 25 years.”
Clancy’s website lists 29 positions for applications. Hurlburt said most are not open, but applications are accepted and kept on file.
Supply chain issues have caused shortages of some common products, he said, such as ketchup, chicken and seafood. “We just try to be as diverse as possible,” Hurlburt said. “And if we get something, it’s usually incredibly expensive. Inflation is part of it, but we’ve managed to keep increased prices to a minimum.”
Adjusting To Changes
Liz Sage manages the Colorado Plus Brew Pub, 6995 W. 38th Ave., and said the business had been affected “the same as everyone else.” “We have enough staff now to be open the hours we need to be,” she stated, while admitting fewer people are employed than in recent years. “We’ve had some shortages of things here and there,” Sage added. “We learned that if we want something, we need to order it when the supplier has it and not wait.”
Supply prices have also increased, she said. “I really hope things get better into (2022),” Sage said.
The Swiss Flower & Gift Shoppe, 9890 W. 44th Ave., was “extremely fortunate,” according to owner Heidi Haas Sheard. “I’ve got a great team of workers and the work to justify keeping all of them working” through the pandemic, she said.
“We’ve been pretty busy,” despite challenging supply chain issues “across the board,” she noted. For instance, Haas Sheard said her holiday chocolate orders – a popular item during the holidays – will be delayed about a month. “We usually get all our Christmas orders done in July,” she said. Other vendors have had changes in their deliveries, too, Haas Sheard added.
Since these businesses were contacted, the discovery of a potentially more transmissible mutation of the coronavirus called omicron sent stock markets and oil prices plunging and raised new concerns about a slower-than-expected economic recovery in the coming year. That could mean supply chain, delivery and staffing issues might continue for some time.
How has the pandemic affected your livelihood and places you frequent? Send your comments to email@example.com.