Arizona restaurants scramble for new hires after Gov. Ducey ends capacity restrictions

The unexpected decision by Governor Doug Ducey to allow 100% capacity at restaurants caught much of the industry off-guard and now, some eateries are scrambling to adjust.

On Friday night at the Sicilian Butcher in north Phoenix, managers were trying to call everyone in. Reservations went up as soon as the governor’s executive order removed occupancy limits on restaurants.

"We’re very grateful for that, but getting unleashed full capacity on a Friday night -- we’re scrambling to call people in," said Gino Calabro, owner for the Sicilian Butcher. "We definitely at all of our locations need for staff immediately."

The restaurant saw hour-long waits Friday and Saturday night.

The occupancy change was unexpected. In a series of tweets, the governor said he made the decision after 7 weeks of declining COVID-19 cases and the roll out of the vaccine. However, mask wearing and social distancing guidelines are still in place.

Similar moves in Texas to reopen 100% capacity led to criticism from President Joe Biden.

"The last thing we need is the Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything's fine," Biden said.

At the Sicilian Butcher, they said more of a notice from Ducey would have helped.

"A heads up on Monday that the 100% [capacity] was coming on the weekend would have been great to allow us 4 or 5 days at least to gear up," said Gino Calabro. "But either way, we’re grateful for it."

While the decision to fully open seats is controversial, it could be a shot in the arm for unemployed restaurant workers as the industry looks to hire to serve more diners.

"Especially now because we’re at 100% capacity, we definitely could use a lot of good, qualified people," Calabro said.

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