BOURBONNAIS — Beggars Pizza, situated at the heavily traveled triangle intersection of South Main Street, Main Street NW and Convent Avenue, has closed due to the lack of workers.
The pizza restaurant is just the latest establishment to close its doors or reduce its hours of service for that reason.
A sign posted on the restaurant’s door stated: “Due to the small staff remaining, we feel we cannot operate with the standards you deserve. We appreciate your business and hope to continue to serve the Bourbonnais community in the future.”
Located at 165 S. Main St., directly across the street from Olivet Nazarene University, the site would seem to be in a prime location for part-time workers due to its proximity to the college and numerous residential neighborhoods.
But that is not the case.
Just last week, Kankakee’s Blue’s Cafe, restaurant staple in the region, closed due to a lack of workers. In Bourbonnais, businesses such as Dollar General, Shell gas station, Dairy Queen and J.R.’s Chicken have scaled back their hours, all citing the lack of workers.
Bourbonnais village administrator Mike Van Mill said this problem is plaguing many businesses. He is hopeful that with the extended unemployment benefits expired, people will once again seek work.
“We’re hopeful this is a short-term problem. There is no question the service industries are struggling,” he said.
Van Mill said these issues are the repercussions of some of the national policies put in place when the pandemic devastated the economy.
A recent report from the National Restaurant Association noted that while restaurants have gained 1.3 million jobs during the first seven months of 2021, the industry is still 1 million jobs short of reaching the pre-pandemic level of 12.3 million.
In Kankakee, 3rd Ward Alderman David Crawford questioned at Monday’s Kankakee City Council meeting if there would be an opportunity to use a portion of the American Rescue Plan Act funds which could be used to aid these small businesses to get through these harsh economic times.
While some workers have stated these businesses simply do not pay enough to attract workers, Crawford said the wages many people want will not allow the businesses to remain viable.
Fellow council member, Lance Marczak, R-4, echoed Crawford’s statement.
“Restaurants are begging for bodies,” he said.
Marczak wondered if programs such as the Kankakee High School culinary program could assist restaurants by either offering pay to students as they gain experience in the business or if they could gain school credit hours by working.