Staff gaps force Howe's Bayou in Ferndale and Sajo's in Clinton Township to stop serving temporarily

August 15, 2021, 12:13 PM by  Alan Stamm

The struggle is real for service businesses hit by post-pandemic labor shortages. A nationwide squeeze now locks the doors at two suburban Detroit restaurants that can't hire enough cooks and servers to operate.

Howe's Bayou will stay empty indefinitely. (Photo: Facebook)

"Not fun for me to say this, but we have to close the restaurant for a while until we can get enough staff to do the job right," Michael Hennes, owner of Howe's Bayou in Ferndale, posted on Facebook this week. "I hope this is a short break and we will see you all soon."

In response to one supportive comment from Angeline Dixon of Ferndale, who calls the creole restaurant "a staple to our city," Hennes replied Thursday: "Find us some cooks." (The Woodward Avenue business invites online applications.)

A similar situation shuts Sajo's in Clinton Township through August, at least. "It's very hard to replace these people [ex-staffers], it’s very difficult," owner Jim Sage tells Fox 2 Detroit.

"We're supposed to have 20 servers -- we have 11," he said. "And we're supposed to have five bartenders -- we have two. We’re supposed to have five cooks -- we have two." ...

Sage plans to reopen in September when the federal pandemic unemployment [aid] ends. Sage believes that is also when the staffing shortage will end.

Labor shortages also affect health care, banking, ride sharing, package delivery and other industries. "The worker shortage is a national economic emergency," says a June statement from Suzanne Clark, head of U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Help wanted, desperately, at this Italian restaurant in Clinton Township. (Photo: Fox 2 screenshot)

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on July 20 vetoed a Republican attempt to pull Michigan state out of the additional $300 weekly benefit for those who lost jobs during the pandemic, such as when restaurants shut because of an indoor dining ban. Backers pushed the July 31 withdrawal as a way to boost the workforce, a step taken by 25 states. The federal programs ends Sept. 4. 

Average weekly state jobless benefits ($308) and the federal boost totaled 74% of Michigan's average weekly wage ($824) in the first quarter of 2021, according to U.S. Labor Department data.

Some restaurants, especially larger ones with multiple sites, raise wages and offer hiring bonuses to lure workers. 

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