El Rio Mexican Cuisine shares staffing shortage experience since COVID

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Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 4:34 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - El Rio Mexican Cuisine is nestled just off of North Green River Road.

Through the doors you’ll see party lights hanging from the ceiling, a stage with microphone stands that was once for entertaining crowds of people, and a full bar around the corner from the main dining area.

Now, the restaurant sits quiet, and dark.

El Rio owner Alma Soto says El Rio was once the place to be.

“My husband and I put a lot of work to make this come true,” says Soto.

Soto is proud that she owns a restaurant that’s all hers. She looks around at the memories created in El Rio’s 20 years of service to Evansville and can’t help but smile.

“This is very sentimental for me. It’s like a dream come true,” says Soto.

Now, El Rio is in danger of going under from a lack of staff and subsequent loss of business.

Soto says that it’s just her own immediate family that works for El Rio. Friday, two people ran the whole restaurant.

“Right now it’s only my son, Jefferey Soto, who’s helping in the kitchen, and me doing the floor,” says Soto.

Soto also says shes doing a lot of things on her own including taking orders, running the food, cleaning the table and doing every transaction, for every table.

She says she doesn’t know how much longer they can hang on, and that she’s in the process of selling the business.

“I don’t want to do it, but I, I think I have to do it,” says Soto.

Although Soto does feel El Rio is her livelihood, and she’s not ready to give that up just yet.

For now, the restaurant is doing carryout, but if you want to dine-in, Soto says she may make an exception.

“Some of our customers decide to eat in here, and it’s okay with us too,” says Alma, with a smile and a laugh.

According to the bureau of labor statistics, Evansville only had a 2.5% unemployment rate in January of 2021.

Still though, restaurants and other small businesses across the country are battling to keep their doors open and their facilities fully-staffed.

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