Mark Harden News Director Denver Business Journal

Colorado’s restaurant operators — already facing a severe shortage of labor for a host of reasons — increasingly find their workers are going to pot, a news report says.

“No one is talking about it, but Colorado’s restaurant labor market is in Defcon 5 right now, because of weed facilities,” Bobby Stuckey, co-owner of Boulder’s renowned Frasca Food and Wine, tells Bloomberg. He says his Pizzeria Locale chain loses a worker to the marijuana industry every few weeks.

An employee pulls marijuana out of a large canister for a customer at the LoDo Wellness…

With the local eatery scene booming and new restaurants constantly coming on line, Denver-area restaurateurs have been complaining for years about having to compete with each other for the insufficient pool of available workers, as the DBJ’s Ed Sealover documented in this 2015 cover story.

Sealover reported in December that industry leaders have launched a program in partnership with Emily Griffith Technical College to offer a free four-week course to anyone interested in learning how to become an entry-level line or prep cook.

Now, local restaurants are losing employees to marijuana grow facilities and dispensaries for jobs that in many cases pay better than what they earn at eateries, Bloomberg says.

“Our work force is being drained by the pot industry,” Bryan Dayton, who owns Oak at Fourteenth, Acorn and Brider in the Denver-Boulder area, told the news service. He said pot businesses in some cases are paying workers $22 a hour plus full benefits.

And Jennifer Jasinski, award-winning operator of several Denver restaurants, says pastry chefs “can make … three to four times the money a restaurant can pay” making cannabis-laced candies and treats.

Mark Harden directs print and digital news content for the Denver Business Journal and compiles the daily “Afternoon Edition” email newsletter. Email: mharden@bizjournals.com. Phone: 303-803-9227.