The Collegian
Tuesday, October 26, 2021

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Cellar service change reflects campus labor shortages in dining locations

The entrance to The Cellar through the Tyler Hanes Commons.
The entrance to The Cellar through the Tyler Hanes Commons.

Editor's note: This article was updated to add information provided by University Communications.

The Cellar will only be open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesdays starting today, according to the Dining Services website

The restaurant, which was the only on-campus restaurant available on weekend nights, changed its hours due to staffing shortages brought about by the pandemic, according to announcements posted at noon Tuesday on the Dining Services Twitter and Instagram pages. 

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A screenshot of the announcement posted to the UR Dining Services Instagram account on Sept. 28 notifying community members of the restaurant closure. 

All employees at The Cellar will be working at the Heilman Dining Center to alleviate staff shortages there, wrote Cynthia Price, associate vice president of media and public relations, in an email to The Collegian on Sept. 30. 

Comstock wrote in the email that she had not been informed of this change until 4 p.m. Monday.

“The staffing shortages at HDC have made it necessary for Dining Services to make the decision to have our staff help them because of our evening and weekend availability,” Comstock wrote.

Only student employees who are scheduled to work on Wednesdays will be able to continue working at The Cellar, according to Comstock’s email. The rest of the student workers were offered jobs at the dining hall, Price wrote in the Sept. 30 email.

Mike Welch, a senior who has worked at The Cellar since his first year at the University of Richmond, said more than half of his paycheck would be gone because he is no longer able to work his usual closing shift on Sundays.

“I’m going to stay there and work my Wednesday shift,” he said. “I like working there. The group is really good, but I’ll probably have to pick up another job.”

Welch said issues with staffing should not have been handled by limiting service hours at The Cellar.

“Bring in outside workers to try to get people to work at D-hall because [The Cellar is] the only late-night option,” Welch said.

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There will be no on-campus restaurants open after 9 p.m. on Fridays and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, making made-to-order food nonexistent on weekend nights. For students like senior Nadia Iqbal who made getting food from The Cellar with her friends a weekend ritual, the hour change is a distressing measure.

“It’s going to be abysmal,” she said. “All I can do is make the best of the dining hall, and that’s the only option. Juniors and seniors are really going to mourn what [The Cellar] used to be.” 

Iqbal also expressed frustration about the way UR announced the change to students via social media. 

“Where is the platform that the university is choosing to inform us with?” Iqbal said, adding that there should be a more accessible way to communicate dining-related information. 

A Spiderbyte informing community members of the closure was published Wednesday morning.

The Cellar and the dining hall are not the only locations experiencing labor shortages; all dining locations are advertising available positions, according to the email. 

Lou’s Cafe reopened this fall with shorter service hours, following a semester-long hiatus caused by Lou’s staff having to work at Organic Krush because of labor shortages at the new dining location and a lower influx of students at Lou’s.

Additionally, Tyler’s Grill posted flyers advertising open positions and campus coffee shop 8:15 posted a notice about a labor shortage causing register closures. 

Televisions at the dining hall asking patrons to be patient with the service illustrate a greater nationwide short-staffing problem, with unemployment rates in the United States reaching 5.2% in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

“Presently, university dining services is operating with significant staff shortages and is actively working to fill many open positions,” Price wrote in a Sept. 29 email to The Collegian.

The UR careers website is advertising a bonus of up to $1,000 for hired candidates. 

The Cellar will remain open only on Wednesdays for the rest of the semester, Price wrote in the email to The Collegian.

Contact multimedia and investigative editor Jackie Llanos at jackie.llanoshernandez@richmond.edu and news co-editor Westen Doran at westen.doran@richmond.edu.

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