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'I need to rest the employees': Ay Chiwawa Mexican Café temporarily closes dining room

The national labor shortage continues to affect San Antonio restaurants.

SAN ANTONIO — At Ay Chiwawa Mexican Café, the problem isn’t a lack of customers. It’s a lack of service.

Owner Carlos Salinas is shortstaffed. He said it’s a struggle to add people to the payroll.

“People don't want to apply. They don't want to come to work,” Salinas said. “I don’t want to blame the government, you know, with the help that they're getting. The employees, apparently, they're making more money getting the unemployment check than working 40 hours a week. So that's why they choose to stay home and don't come to work."

Salinas said the situation his restaurant is in has resulted in current employees working longer hours.

“They’re working too hard,” Salinas said. “Too many doubles, six days a week. They’re getting tired.”

Salinas made the decision to close the dining room starting on Sept. 14 to keep his team from burning out. He said the move was only temporary. 

“The main focus for me right now, is I need to rest the employees,” Salinas said. “I need to help them out, for them to keep helping me out.”

While the dining room is closed, customers can still use the drive-thru or call to place a pick-up order.

“We do whatever it takes right now,” Salinas said.

Salinas isn’t one to shy away from hard work. He may even be the one serving you.

“I'm not the kind of guy that likes to point fingers,” Salinas said. “I do the job with them. You forget to bus tables? I’ll bus tables. If I have to do the line, I do the line. I have to wash dishes, I wash dishes.”

He’s done those tasks for most of his life. While Salinas has his law degree, he’s worked in the restaurant industry for 45 years.

“Since I was 13 years old,” Salinas said. “My grandfather used to own hotels and every time we would ask grandpa for money, he put us to work cleaning tables and helping customers.”

Even though times are tough now, the silver lining for Salinas is the support from his customers who line up to order food.

“They've come through the drive-thru and place to-go orders over the phone. They’re there for us,” Salinas said. “We've been blessed with the community, been blessed because of my employees and we're just hoping that this will be over soon so we can go back to normal.”

Ay Chiwawa started in Austin in 1999, before Salinas moved to the Spring Branch area. He now has the location in Spring Branch and a second location in San Antonio.

If you’re interested in placing an order or looking to apply, you can visit the Ay Chiwawa website here.