Mid-Atlantic
Jared Lisack

NC - Help wanted on Outer Banks: Tourists are there — but workers aren’t, businesses say

It’s never easy to find seasonal workers on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where summers can feel like paradise but housing is limited.

This season, business owners say a number of factors related to COVID-19 have made it essentially impossible to hire employees — a major problem as pandemic-weary tourists are flocking to the popular barrier islands.

“I’m almost at the point of begging people to work,” said Charles Obrien, owner of Miss Kitty’s Old Time Photos and Gifts in Corolla.

Coastal communities beyond the Outer Banks are facing the same problem, even as more people get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Experts say some people still worry about the potential health risks of working in crowded settings such as restaurants. And some businesses that depend on hiring foreign students are out of luck because of coronavirus travel restrictions and a slow-down in the processing of visas.

On the Outer Banks, a record-breaking number of people are coming for vacation, and more visitors means a greater need for workers, said Karen Brown, president and CEO of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce.

Without enough servers and cooks, some restaurants have had to close on some days.

“We initially planned on being open seven days a week like we do at every other location we have,” Ashley McGrath — owner of McGrath’s Burger Shack, whichopened for its first season on Nags Head — told the Outer Banks Voice. “We will now be closed Sundays and Mondays.”

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