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After tumultuous year, Las Cruces restaurant owners struggle to rehire staff

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- Doña Ana County restaurants might be allowed to offer indoor dining at half capacity beginning Friday, but some owners say they can't hire the staff to do so.

“We’ve been trying for a while now to get people back to work," said Frankie Torres, the owner of Chalas Wood Fire Grill. "We just can’t do it.”

To add more tables to his dining room, Torres told ABC-7 he needs to fill a handful of positions in the kitchen and restaurant. He worries that local service industry workers might be afraid to take a job, only to lose it.

“There may be some employees now that are maybe discouraged or scared to come back because they might feel, 'Well, I’m going to come back to work and I’m going to be let go again,'" Torres said.

“I do understand that, because I’ve had those thoughts myself," said Dana Hobbs, a Chala's server who has worked in the industry for 13 years. "The demand for serving has just been so extreme.”

At 8.3%, New Mexico has the third highest unemployment rate in the country, according to the Albuquerque Journal. The newspaper reports that the state will soon roll out policies to encourage unemployed New Mexicans to return to work.

“We need to both incentivize employees to go back to work and we’re going to need some accountability aspects,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham told business leaders on Wednesday, as quoted in the Journal.

“I used to say serving was one of the easiest jobs in the world," said Hobbs, who spent three months unemployed last year. “Between losing servers in the front of the house and cooks in the back of the house, we definitely need help."

Article Topic Follows: Biz/Tech

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Kate Bieri

Kate Bieri is a former ABC-7 New Mexico Mobile Newsroom reporter and weekend evening newscast anchor.


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