December 3, 2018


Napa Valley restaurants are finding it increasingly difficult to hire and retain qualified personnel. The causes are partly driven by the high cost of living but also appear linked to broader trends: lack of affordable housing, higher-paying alternative careers (e.g., construction) and slowing local population growth. These trends are exacerbated when coupled with the increasing number of Napa Valley tourists, resorts, restaurants and wineries.

“Everyone is dealing with staffing issues — it’s unsustainable,” said Richard Reddington, whose popular Yountville Redd restaurant closed in October.

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“Staffing has become the greatest challenge to every restaurant in the Napa Valley,” said Redd’s former general manager, Guy Rebentisch. “First it’s too expensive to live here for many — two of my staff drove in from Sacramento four or five times a week.”

St. Helena’s 30-year-old Michelin-starred Restaurant Terra closed this year.

“It (the closing) is mostly about staffing,” said Lissa Doumani, co-owner. “It is so difficult to find someone; there are so many more businesses opening, and housing is so limited and expensive.”

Doumani reported that one of their cooks drove from Danville (62 miles away).

“At the end of service these are horrible drives,” she said. “Add to that when our staff had to come to work — which is between 2 and 3:30 p.m. — the traffic is out of control and so there is more stress.”

Or as Thomas Sowell calls it, “The Housing Price of Liberalism:”

In this part of California, liberalism reigns supreme and “open space” is virtually a religion. What that lovely phrase means is that there are vast amounts of empty land where the law forbids anybody from building anything.

Anyone who has taken Economics 101 knows that preventing the supply from rising to meet the demand means that prices are going to rise. Housing is no exception.

Yet when my wife wrote in a local Palo Alto newspaper, many years ago, that preventing the building of housing would cause existing housing to become far too expensive for most people to afford it, she was deluged with more outraged letters than I get from readers of a nationally syndicated column.

What she said was treated as blasphemy against the religion of “open space” — and open space is just one of the wonderful things about the world envisioned by liberals that is ruinously expensive in the mundane world where the rest of us live.

As Sowell writes, “Much as many liberals like to put guilt trips on other people, they seldom seek out, much less acknowledge and take responsibility for, the bad consequences of their own actions.”

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