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Beloved NYC Ukrainian restaurant Veselka suffers from labor shortage

A beloved Ukrainian diner in New York City can no longer stay open 24 hours because the owner can’t find overnight shift workers amid the ongoing labor shortage.

Veselka, an East Village mainstay and hotspot for the post-bar crowd, is scaling back its hours from 8 a.m. to midnight, Insider first reported Wednesday.

The eatery’s owner, Jason Birchard, told The Post on Thursday that it is because kitchen staffers don’t want to work the grueling late shift for $20 an hour.

“I’m finding the labor market shortage a real issue,” Birchard, 55, said. “I can’t find quality help. Nobody wants to work for less than $20 an hour.”

Birchard said the number of workers at the eatery — which serves traditional borscht and pierogi on Second Avenue and East Ninth Street — shrunk from 100 to 80 after the pandemic.

Young hospitality industry employees feel empowered to demand higher wages and better working conditions amid the so-called Great Resignation, but some small businesses simply can’t afford to pay more, he said.

Veselka, an East Village Ukrainian diner, can no longer stay open 24 hours due to a lack of overnight shift employees.
Matthew McDermott
Veselka has been serving a traditional Ukrainian menu, such as borscht and perogies, since 1954.
Veselka has been serving a traditional Ukrainian menu, such as borscht and pierogi, since 1954.
Joan Slatkin/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

“There’s disconnect with this younger generation in a post-COVID world,” he said, insisting that stimulus and unemployment checks during the pandemic also changed the mindset of workers.

“It’s a very ‘me’ generation. I might have five interviews and only two show up, and they both have a better offer,” he said. “It’s slim pickings.”

Many of Birchard’s overnight workers left the city in recent weeks and he promoted some of the staffers who stuck around to the day shift, making it nearly impossible to stay open 24 hours, he said.

Jason Birchard, the owner of Veselka.
“There’s disconnect with this younger generation in a post-COVID world,” said Jason Birchard, the owner of Veselka.
Matthew McDermott

Staff shortages have hit the restaurant industry hard in the Big Apple — and nationwide — since the pandemic struck, making it harder for employees to stomach low wages and challenging job conditions.

Birchard, who said his business has been thriving in recent months, said he’s not opposed to offering benefits and higher wages to folks working the tougher overnight hours.

“I’m all for fair wage and paid benefits — I’m open to that,” he said.  “I’m willing to go that route if it attracts quality workers.”

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