A low unemployment rate is creating some difficult situations for Cody’s restaurants.
Park County’s August unemployment rate of 3.3 percent is lower than the statewide average of 3.5 percent and the national average of 3.8 percent.
However, the low unemployment rate means there are fewer workers available, leaving businesses like Bubba’s Barbecue, owned by Brian and Denise Wiegand, without enough staff to remain open seven days a week. The Wiegands said for the first time in eight years, they have had to close their restaurant one day a week.
“Every week it seems like there’s another business opening in Cody, diminishing the labor pool even more,” Brian Wiegand said. “This has been the first winter, however, where it has really hit us, this shortage of labor in Cody.”
The problem is similar at the Proud Cut Saloon, owned for more than 30 years by Becky and Del Nose.
Becky Nose said because of unreliable workers, she often does not know if she can open for a day of business.
“They text you at 4 in the morning and say ‘I’m not coming in’ or they randomly text you through the night and tell you they don’t like this or that and so they just don’t show up,” she said. “Or they just don’t show up at all. So every day, you’re actually standing in the doorway in the mornings, hoping you have enough people to open your business for that day.”
Lacking sufficient staff, Cassie’s Supper Club was forced to eliminate its lunch service this year, said Melody Singer, who has owned and operated the business for 25 years with her husband Steve.
“It’s so hard to keep a full staff at lunchtime and keep a staff at dinner time,” she said. “Dinner for us is a better choice, we’re a steakhouse. So we did away with the lunch service.”
Donna Lester, manager of the Cody office of the state Department of Workforce Services, said she understands the frustrations of the restauranteurs.
“You have people coming in here every day saying they don’t have jobs, they don’t have enough money to pay the bills or to put food on the table,” she said. “And then we don’t see them at our job fairs. There’s a distinction between what people say they want to do and what they’re actually willing to do.”
The restaurant owners agreed they would take the necessary steps to stay in operation despite the labor shortage.
“We’re trying to get labor hired so that we can get back open seven days a week, but if we can’t, we’ll keep closed one day a week, maybe two days a week,” said Denise Wiegand of Bubba’s Barbecue. “Because we know we’ll get the labor come the summertime.”