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COVID-19 sick callouts forcing Utah restaurants to close days at a time

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah restaurants are closing for days at a time because they say too many staff members are calling out sick with COVID-19.

As the omicron variant continues to spread, restaurants in downtown Salt Lake City put signs on their doors Tuesday evening, indicating they had to close because of staffing shortages due to the pandemic.

Post Office Place, which is right next door, just went through the same issue last week.

“We haven’t had that unexpected, ‘Oh my gosh, we really don’t have enough people to be open,’ experience,” said Tamara Gibo, managing member of Post Office Place and the restaurant Takashi.

Gibo explained that between both businesses, so many employees called out sick with COVID-19 that they didn’t have the minimum staffing necessary to run Post Office Place.

They closed for a full three days — Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Gibo described how this meant employees who could work lost out on income, food had to be thrown away, and the bar didn’t take in the revenue they need toward rent and other expenses.

“It’s hard to close,” Gibo said. “You build up clientele, and you build up traffic, and you build up expectations. And it’s heartbreaking to not be able to be open.”

Michele Corigliano with the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association said she’s been taking frantic calls from business owners all week about the same problem, with some having to completely shut down for five days.

“They’re saying 75 to 80 percent of their employees are out,” Corigliano said. “It is crazy. Just crazy.”

Even if it’s a few days, she explained that restaurant owners are taking huge losses.

“They have their fixed costs that aren’t going away,” she said. “So, they are wondering if there’s any kind of grants that the state is going to help with. They don’t know about unemployment benefits for their employees.”

As the restaurant industry waits to see what kind of relief is possible to dip into, at the very least, everyone hopes COVID-19 cases will calm down.

Post Office Place is optimistic it can weather whatever the pandemic serves up next.

“Even if some others do come up with positive tests, I think we’re okay staff-wise to be able to make the rotations and fill in the gaps,” Gibo said.

Hoping at the very least, they won’t have to close again.

Gibo recommended that anyone dining out check a restaurant’s social media page or call ahead to make sure the establishment is open during its normal days and hours.

KSL 5 TV Live

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