Bend restaurants close for lunch due to labor shortage

Look around Bend and you might find that your favorite lunch spot is closed due to a labor shortage.

“We were looking forward, on a beautiful day like today, to having lunch at the Pine Tavern,” said Bend resident Liz Rachung.

Unfortunately for Rachun, his friends, and many other diners in Bend, the Pine Tavern no longer serves lunch. The restaurant now opens at 2 p.m. with a sign on its outdoor bulletin board explaining that the change is due to a lack of workers.

“Obviously we want this city to thrive and have a lot of options and it’s just staff, everywhere,” Rachun said.

“People are just changing the way they do business and what it looks like and it’s changing the hours of operation, whether it’s daytime,” said Damon Runberg, an economist with the Oregon Department of Employment. “Some restaurants don’t have Mondays.

Included in the “no lunch” crowd: Both 900 Wall and Drake have changed their schedules.

“Lunch is an important part of our restaurant,” said Pine Tavern manager Anthony Avraam. “This is an opportunity to create regulars, especially with the weather improving, not being able to open our terrace outside is devastating. Finding kitchen staff has been extremely difficult and has affected our ability to offer longer hours.

“So I was in the industry for about 20 years,” said Craig Downer, a Bend resident. “I feel like since Rona cut everything two years ago, all that staff just found something else to do.”

According to the Oregon Department of Employment, that appears to be the case with employment at an all-time high in the region.

“What’s different today compared to before the pandemic is really that the demand for labor is still very high,” Runberg said.

“We live in Portland and we see it there too,” Isa Mays said.

Mays and her husband traveled to Bend to eat at Pine Tavern and were disappointed that the restaurant was not open for their lunch. And the lack of staff puts more pressure on current workers.

“I have two friends or I guess one friend now who also works at the Pine Tavern and she’s really stressed out there,” Lilly Huggin said.

Huggin works down the street at Goody’s, where she said the majority of her high school colleagues felt stressed by the lack of staff.

The solution to reopen at noon: hire young people or look outside the area in the short term. However, raising wages is no longer enough.

“More wages lead to more inflation and more inflation leads to higher wages,” Runberg said.

Another solution to the labor crisis is to simply wait for demand to decline, thus cutting jobs. Bend is slowly moving in that direction, according to the Oregon Department of Employment.

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Sandy A. Greer