Without help, some north country restaurants reduce hours, others close for good

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 4:34 PM EDT
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WILNA, New York (WWNY) - A labor shortage has been seen in all industries, all over the nation. But a lack of staff in restaurants in particular, is causing some local eateries to close their doors for good.

For 32 years, 88-year-old Belva Hall has run Belva’s Sahara Restaurant, living right in the building with her cat Henry.

She takes care of just about everything the business needs, but since her main cook left two weeks ago, Hall has been unable to replace him, and had to close her doors.

“Even though I had talked about closing because of my age, I didn’t plan on doing it this way,” Hall said. “Everybody says it’s because they’re getting paid so much to stay home.”

The Sahara isn’t alone in this struggle.

Another local restaurant affected by the staff shortage is Gary’s in Lowville. The business has had to cut its hours, and is no longer offering dinner. The restaurant has been in business for 46 years, and to have to do something that drastic is unprecedented.

“It’s sad. It’s sad that they’ve worked so hard and there’s nothing they can do because they have no help,” said Zero Dock Street general manager Courtney Hoppel.

Hoppel is familiar with the challenge. She began managing Zero Docl Street just before the pandemic hit. She said they’ve been short staffed by at least ten people ever since.

“We just have this beautiful restaurant we’d loved to fill, but we can’t due to not having skilled staff,” she said.

She too chalks it up to unemployment payouts.

“Eventually, the unemployment is going to end. I encourage everybody to come out, grab an application, and help out these restaurants that are hurting, because we’re low staffed,” said Hoppel.

As for the Sahara, Hall hopes to reopen if she can find cooks, and make it into her 90s still serving customers.

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