New COVID-19 Impact on North Texas Businesses

The lack of virus-free workers is the challenge as some businesses close their doors

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The surging COVID-19 omicron variant is producing many new challenges for North Texas businesses that are struggling to keep workers on the job.

Texas Restaurant Association President Emily Williams Knight said many businesses that have closed for lack of employees may never reopen after earlier forced closures.

She complained that promised state aid that could save more businesses has not come through.

“The phone calls coming in now are, ‘I'm just not going to be able to make it. After 20 months of this, I'm now not going to make it because this is one more obstacle,’” she said.

Though some customers may be cautious about visiting crowded locations with the omicron variant of the virus spreading, Williams Knight said demand is still greater than the supply of restaurants.

“This is a generous time for tipping. This is when a lot of employees make a considerable amount and it’s really unfortunate. I don’t think you can find another industry that has been impacted like this one,” she said.

Amor Y Queso cheese shop in Dallas Deep Ellum temporarily closed and canceled more than a dozen big customer New Year’s orders.

Owner Sarah Carlock, her family and her employees tested positive.

“It seems like it's everywhere right now, you can't get away from it. Everywhere you go, somebody's had it, just getting over it,” Carlock said.

After giving up strong holiday business, Carlock said she hopes customers will return when she is able to reopen.

“If your customers can’t trust you then they’re not going to come back to you,” she said. “If I was the reason somebody got sick, that would speak poorly to who I am as a business owner and a person.”

Big businesses are affected, too.

A Walmart Neighborhood Market on the Central Expressway in Dallas closed Thursday for a day of deep cleaning after COVID-19 cases were evidently reported there.

The University of Texas at Dallas announced spring classes will now start Jan. 18, more than a week later than planned. That will impact surrounding businesses that normally serve students.

At DFW Airport, the west control tower was closed Wednesday afternoon for lack of air traffic controllers. The east side tower took over but the reduced capacity forced the delay of incoming flights from some cities.

The Federal Aviation Administration Thursday said DFW air traffic controller operations were back to normal. But hundreds of flights were still delayed or canceled as airlines struggle with staffing.

The DFW area hospitality industry was recovering in 2021 after the crushing 2020 drop in travel demand.

Despite difficulty hiring enough hourly workers for hotel jobs, room night sales this year were close to pre-pandemic levels, according to Hotel Association of North Texas Executive Director Traci Mayer.

But she said hotels are now facing a new challenge keeping workers on the job.

“We’re experiencing the same issues that all these other businesses are experiencing,” Mayer said. “The one bright spot is looking ahead to 2022. We are optimistic.”

Mayer said some big hotel bookings have been delayed but not canceled.

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