News that Tulsa’s iconic Celebrity Restaurant is closing was shocking to many Tulsans.
The swank restaurant at 3109 S. Yale Ave. has been the spot where generations of Tulsans have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and any other special occasion. It was the sort of place where you could sit in a corner booth, listen to the piano at the bar and imagine Frank Sinatra walking in.
The owners say they hope to reopen around the holidays, but for now, the 58-year Tulsa tradition has gone dark.
In a Facebook post, Three Sirens Restaurant Group, which purchased and renovated the restaurant in 2019, says the Celebrity is being shuttered because of staffing problems.
Like many restaurants, Celebrity has had a hard time restaffing after the COVID-19 crisis.
“We have found ourselves unable to staff this particular restaurant. ... So for now, for the summer season at least, and until we can see a growth in the work force of this particular industry, we will be closing the doors,” the post says.
The Celebrity Restaurant is the latest victim of the post-COVID labor problems facing the state and the nation.
By the numbers, we’re in an employment rebound. Some 429,800 people were employed in the Tulsa metropolitan area in May, compared to 424,900 a year ago, according to the latest report of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. In the food service sector, there are 44,500 workers, compared to 38,800 twelve months before.
But the disruption of the shutdown and the growing economy has many businesses in many sectors unable to fill open jobs with qualified, experienced workers they need. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were some 9.2 million job openings nationwide at the end of May. That includes 737,000 in the leisure and hospitality industry.
In an attempt to get people back into the work force, Gov. Kevin Stitt is using federal relief funding to offer return-to-work incentives of $1,200 to eligible workers. It’s a creative effort, and we hope it works. Stitt pointed out last week that the state’s unemployment rate is down to 3.7%, the eighth lowest rate in the nation. Some 1,634,500 Oklahomans now hold jobs, compared to a pre-pandemic number of 1,701,700, recorded in February, 2020.
But as the closing of the Celebrity Restaurant shows, there are still a lot more wanted signs out there, than there are people willing to work.