‘Business is here, but I can’t hire anyone,’ Mary Ann’s Tea Room announces closure

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ST. LOUIS–Mother’s Day weekend is expected to draw hundreds of people out to eat. However, many restaurants are struggling to find people to work.

“I think it’s going to be difficult to offer the level of service that we want to be giving and I think people are coming to expect again,” Mary Ann’s Tea Room Director of Operations Kenny Fowler said.

Also in the Central West End, Bar Italia canceled the annual Mother’s Day brunch because they don’t have enough workers. They will still be open for dinner service Sunday.

“You never like to turn away someone, that is the essence of hospitality is to bring people in and take care of them and make people happy and when you can’t it’s disappointing,” Bar Italia Owner Mengesha Yohannes said.

It’s a similar story for Layla in The Grove. The warmer weather means more patio business for their restaurant, which is expecting to be busier over Mother’s Day weekend.

“We do need additional help, we have been finding some people, but we haven’t had a lot of people applying right now,” Layla Front of House Manager Anya Cunningham said.

Layla and Bar Italia are able to stay open even amid staffing shortages, but Mary Ann’s Tea Room isn’t as lucky.

“It’s heartbreaking that the business is there, but I can’t hire anyone,” Fowler said.

The tearoom announced it’ll close its doors after service on May 16th, after nearly 8 years.

“In the last three or four months we’ve definitely seen ourselves come back up to close to pre-covid numbers,” Fowler said. “Every restaurant in the Central West End I know is struggling.”

Mary Ann’s Tea Room has been operating with less than a quarter of the staff they are used to. They’ve been trying to hire for months on various avenues including paid services, but nothing has helped and Fowler isn’t quite sure why.

“You hear that its people scared to be out, you hear that its people that are disgruntled because of the way they were laid off, you hear that its people are lazy and are sitting at home drawing unemployment, it would seem to me it’s a combination of all of those and I wish I knew a way to fix it,” Fowler said.

Fowler said the boutique at the front of the tea room will stay open and they won’t take anything out of the tearoom just yet, with hopes they can reopen in the fall if they are able to find enough staff.

“Thank you St. Louis for a great run, I hope to see you again soon, Fowler said.

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