Restaurants in the Rogue Valley excited to fully re-open, concerns about hiring linger

ROGUE VALLEY, Ore. — Today is reopening day in Oregon, and for businesses, that means some big changes.

But some local restaurants aren’t taking a sigh of relief, just yet.

There’s no doubt these restaurants are happy and excited to go back to business as usual, but many of them are short-staffed, meaning despite full capacity being allowed – your favorite place to eat could only be open at half capacity.

“I talk to customers, they are very happy not to have a mask, goodbye forever,” said owner of SooRah Korean Cuisine in downtown Medford, Paul Yeo.

Gone are the masks and mask mandate signs at Oregon indoor dining establishments.

Starting today, restaurants can seat full capacity for the first time since the pandemic began last March.

“[It’s] very hard to hire new employees at this moment,” said Yeo. For him, staffing is a major issue.

He’s posted on Craigslist in hopes of hiring for all positions at his restaurant.

He says no one has called or applied.

“We have enough business, but we don’t have enough people to serve the customer on time. I’m only having 50% right now. So soon after we hire more people I’m planning to open 100%.”

In Phoenix, Debby’s Diner has been experiencing similar problems, but luckily managed to make some recent hires.

“We’re getting people in the door, we’ve hired some people in the last couple of weeks, yeah, we’re doing great,” said cook, Zaak Lynch. “We’re opening up more counter space, we had the counter closed off for a while, we’re just kinda opening things up and getting some more room in so we can go back to seating at full capacity.”

He says everything going back to normal and going back to full capacity is something he, and others, have been waiting for.

“Everybody’s motivated, ready to rock and get back to business as usual, we’re just glad that – we’re getting a sense of normalcy.”

Both restaurants are resuming their normal hours of business if you want to support locally-owned restaurants.

NBC5 News reporter Mariah Mills is a Medford native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor's Degree in journalism. She also minored in sociology. In school, she covered Oregon athletics for the student-run television station, Duck TV. When she's not reporting, she’s reading, hiking and rooting for her favorite teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks.
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