Downtown businesses prepare for huge crowds during NBA Finals amid workforce shortage

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The spotlight on Milwaukee over the next few weeks means the city gets to showcase its great restaurants and businesses, but amid a widespread workforce shortage the question is: Will they be ready for the large crowds?

Omar Shaikh, co-owner of Carnevor, says, "yes and no."

"I think all businesses have done really well throughout all this. One of the issues are is that we just can't get enough people to work," Shaikh said. "That's one of the massive issues that hospitality and small businesses are facing right now. So hopefully, that's going to get resolved here pretty soon."

On Old World Third Street, the finals are bringing a frenzy. Taco Mike's has had lines down the block during the Bucks' playoff run, and the owner said he's ready for even more business.

"Every time (the Bucks) advance it gets a little busier and a little busier. And now it's the finals, so it's just crazy," said Mike Holz, owner of Taco Mike's.

The massive crowds mean Taco Mike's is selling more tacos and Wisconsin Cheese Mart is selling more cheese.

"Last weekend, we had one of our busiest summer weekends since before 2019 even," said Melissa McNulty, owner of Wisconsin Cheese Mart. "For a lot of people, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

It's the boost businesses have waited months for.

"I think our first chance of that was (the Democratic National Convention) to be on an international scale. We didn't really get that opportunity. So now this, along with Ryder Cup, is an opportunity to have people from all around the world come in for it and showcase this great city," Shaikh said.

Shaikh said some restaurants may have a hard time handling the influx of customers because of the labor shortage.

"We're trying to go back to seven days a week. We can't. Nobody's coming through the doors every time we're running an ad. It's a massive issue in our industry," he said.

Businesses have gotten creative to prepare for long lines. Holz said customers can help streamline the process by ordering food using Taco Mike's QR code. They'll get a text when the food is ready.

He's asking customers to be patient and expect a wait if it's busy.

"We're hiring right now but we also have a good staff that we're ready to bring in. And we get guys to come in on their days off to help out," Holz said.

The business owners all agree, after the last year, they're thrilled for the opportunity to have more business.

"A lot of those people that are coming downtown I'm sure haven't been downtown for a while. We're happy everyone's sort of coming back and rediscovering downtown," McNulty said.

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