Chicago restaurants start hiring again as COVID restrictions ease

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With COVID vaccination picking up and city restrictions easing, Chicago's restaurants and bars have begun hiring again.

For the first time in months, the lunch crowd was bustling at The Dearborn in Chicago's Loop. The restaurant reopened Wednesday, having been closed since November.

"Sitting and playing video games is not my life's ambition. It's great to get back to work," said Greg Samuels, manager.

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The reopening also brings some hope for the future to co-owners Clodagh and Amy Lawless.

"There's a little light at the end of the tunnel and we're moving toward it at a quicker pace," Clodagh Lawless said.

The hospitality industry is starting to recover, at least according to February's job report, which shows 286,000 jobs added across the country total, three out of four in restaurants and bars.

While that's an improvement, the industry is still down some 3.5 million jobs compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our biggest needs right now lie in the hourly world, and servers, bartenders, support staff, hostesses and hosts," said David Rekhson, DineAmic Hospitality co-founder.

DineAmic is hiring at a dozen restaurants they own in the city, including Prime & Provisions in the Loop. While The Dearborn was able to bring back most staff, some restaurant workers have since moved on to other jobs, creating more demand for good employees in the industry.

"We've been running ads and using social media to get the word out," said Steven Hartenstein of Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants.

At The Dearborn they say they still have a long road to go, but with a busy restaurant filled with employees and customers, things are looking up.

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"Unfortunately, there have been so many restaurants close in downtown, we're grateful to open up and serve our community again," said Amy Lawless.

While there is more activity downtown many restaurant owners don't expect a full recovery until theater and more nightlife return. They hope that will be soon.
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