ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The historic Church Street Cafe, in the heart of Old Town, is an Albuquerque staple. The New Mexican restaurant brings in locals daily, but when Balloon Fiesta is here, tourists from across the globe will be eager to get a bite.
“It’s crowded, it’s usually very, very crowded. We usually have an hour to an hour and a half wait to get in,” Marie Coleman, the owner of Church Street Cafe, said.
But the cafe, like many restaurants in town, doesn’t have enough workers to serve all of those tourists. “It has been very trying, it’s been very difficult. Tonight I had two people call in so half of my restaurants closed,” Coleman said.
In a normal Balloon Fiesta, they have around 60 employees on the clock, but this year, just 35. “It’s hard, and then trying to get them in now before Balloon Fiesta and train them is going to be almost impossible.”
The restaurant has had to make do with Balloon Fiesta on the horizon; Church Street Cafe is holding its breath. “I’m begging friends and family to come and work. Anybody want to do some overtime? Just come in and help us out,” Coleman said.
The New Mexico Restaurant Association says staffing shortages are still just as bad as they were two years ago, and they’re not sure why. The state says we’re back to pre-pandemic levels, but the association isn’t buying it. “You know, unemployment is down, but certainly every restaurant that I know still has a sign in the window saying help wanted, and not just wanted, but needed,” Carol Wight, the CEO of the association, said.
As the Balloon Fiesta lands in town this weekend, Church Street Cafe say they’re ready as they’ll ever be. “I’m hoping most people will have patience and just kind of understanding about what’s going on,” Coleman said.