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Employees calling out sick with COVID-19 affects Coastal Bend businesses

Posted at 6:43 PM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 19:46:24-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — When you go into Updog Pizza in Odem, they’ll greet you with a familiar “What’s up dog?”

Unfortunately, that couldn’t happen recently after they were closed two weekends ago due to a worker shortage.

Owner Adam Martinez came down with COVID-19, and because he wanted to be precautious, he closed his business for a few days so his employees wouldn’t contract the virus.

“We decided to shut it down for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” Martinez said.

They usually work with a crew of about six, all of them being Martinez’s culinary arts students from Odem High School. Martinez is thinking of hiring someone outside of the school in case he has to shut down again, and said he’s been consulting with local business owners about how to prevent a shortage of workers.

He said not being able to cater to the community was the hardest part about closing for a few days.

“We had a couple of requests for birthday parties. 'Hey can I grab eight pizzas for a birthday party on Saturday.' No. Which I hate saying that word, so that was the biggest challenge that weekend was just not being able to take care of the customers,” Martinez said.

Chops and Eggs is also facing a similar issue. While they didn’t have to close, owner Jordan Jaradat, who also owns Ginger Cafe in Corpus Christi, said he had many employees call out between his two restaurants after the holidays.

“We employ around 100 employees, 120 total with part-time and full-time. We have around 30 to 25 people who called in in the beginning of January,” Jaradat said.

While Atomic Omelette in Corpus Christi hasn’t had many employees call out because of COVID-19 recently, they have had a lot of employees call out due to other illnesses. They said they had to make an action plan after facing worker shortages after the stimulus bills came out last year.

"We only have a set staff that we can draw from, so we try to cross-train in the front of the house and the back of the house so that we’ve got coverage even when it’s thin,” owner Dana Bazinet said.

She owns the restaurant with her brother Mike Van Syckle, and they have both gone through an employee shortage for the past two years since the pandemic started. Van Syckle said their finances have decreased 25% in that time.

They have a simple message for the community during these tough times:

“Support local, support small business,” Mike said.