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Restaurants face staff shortages, COVID-19 cases lead to closures

Restaurants face staff shortages, COVID-19 cases lead to closures

PULASKI COUNTY, Ark. – As Omicron grows statewide, eateries and local diners are forced to close to address the staff shortage caused by the virus.

Keith & Co. Artisan Sandwiches in Jacksonville is one of several restaurants that decided to close this week, due to a lack of available staff and concerns about COVID as the reason for the closure.

“That was a tough decision,” explains owner Darin Keith. Its secondary location, Bennett’s in Sherwood, remains open. “We are losing revenue, but at the same time everyone is safe and we make sure everyone comes back healthy and well.”

Keith said the decision had been made to close for a few days at the start of the week. But on the scheduled reopening day, employees held a team meeting and decided to postpone it until Monday for everyone’s safety.

It’s a common problem in the Little Rock metro area, where restaurants close for a few days, only offer takeout, or cancel services due to a lack of staff.

Michelle Gilbert of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership says restaurants are one of Little Rock’s big draws and vital to the city’s survival. While most things in Downtown are still open and thriving, she adds, “If we see restaurants that aren’t doing as well as normal, it can have a ripple effect on the neighborhood.”

Gilbert recommends finding ways to support locals every step of the way, saying, “Keep supporting your favorite local restaurants and businesses, even if it just means getting takeout.”

Most closed restaurants announced the break online via social media. Keith & Co. plans to reopen Monday morning, while many other eateries are also looking for an update next week.