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Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chart: John Frank/Axios

Restaurants in Denver, Fort Collins and across Colorado face "enormous" hiring and retention challenges, reflecting a broader national trend, the Colorado Restaurant Association tells Axios.

The big picture: It comes as restrictions are loosening and diners are returning to restaurants — and despite high employment and a massive push to hire back staff and bring on new employees, especially as the summer patio season approaches.

What they're saying: Between Eddyline Brewery's two operations in Buena Vista, staff has been slashed by about 50%, causing the taproom to stay temporarily closed, owner Brian England told Axios.

  • He recently hosted a virtual job fair that drew in zero applicants.
  • "Even if we quadruple our wages — nobody's applying," he said.

By the numbers: The leisure and hospitality sector was hit hard by the pandemic lockdown and is partly why Colorado's unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 6.4% in March.

  • Restaurants posted about 25,000 fewer jobs in March compared to the same point in 2019, an Axios analysis of labor data shows.
  • There currently are more than 3,500 jobs listed within the food preparation and serving industry on Connecting Colorado, a state- and county-run job board.

Between the lines: Multiple factors may be contributing to the shortage in staff, experts say:

  • Generous unemployment benefits may be more than workers made at their former job.
  • Workers could be reconsidering their careers and leaving the industry for good.
  • People may feel fearful of returning to work and the health risks that they could face.

What to watch: The restaurant association is looking at ways to help the industry overcome the issue, including lobbying the state to offer incentives — like hiring bonuses — to get people back into hospitality, Axios has learned.

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Go deeper

John Frank, author of Denver
Apr 20, 2021 - Axios Denver

What national marijuana legalization would mean for Colorado

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Colorado's cannabis industry is enjoying an era of prosperity as national attitudes toward marijuana become more relaxed.

Driving the news: 17 states have legalized recreational marijuana sales and pot enjoys its highest popularity ever with 68% of adults backing legalization, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Apr 20, 2021 - Axios Denver

Colorado pushes for social equity in the cannabis industry

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

White business owners overwhelmingly dominate Colorado’s cannabis industry, but the market’s lack of diversity could soon change.

What’s happening: New efforts at the state and local level are moving forward to foster industry opportunities for communities of color that have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs.

Driving the news: Tuesday — on 420 —Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is signing the most sweeping set of changes to the city’s marijuana regulation since recreational pot sales were legalized in 2014.

CDC says fully vaccinated people don't have to wear masks indoors

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images

The CDC announced in new guidance Thursday that anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, regardless of crowd size.

What they're saying: "If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will say at a White House press briefing.