Dayton, OHIO (WDTN)— Now more than 20 months into the pandemic, local restaurants that have survived are struggling to find employees. Some of the businesses that kept their doors open say they’re not out of the woods yet, and on top of that they need workers.

“Restaurants are still struggling to get enough staff and over 90 percent of our restaurants say it’s a significant issue, some use the word ‘crisis’,” said Ohio Restaurant Association CEO John Barker.

The Ohio Restaurant Association says over 3,100 restaurants did not survive the coronavirus pandemic and shut their doors permanently.

“Every sale makes a difference, that’s how tough business is right now for restaurants, it’s been up and down for the past 16 to 17 months due to the pandemic so they need to keep fighting and scratching as much as they can,” said Barker.

Brown Street’s Jimmie’s Ladder 11 is celebrating 10 years since their grand opening this Thursday. Management says they are allowing employees and guests to make their own choice when it comes to wearing a mask since the City of Dayton lifted the mask mandate last week.

“We still provide masks and sanitize everything and take every measure that we should be taking as a restaurant in general to keep things clean,” said Manager Nick Brandell. “But, if you have a mask on, fantastic, if you don’t, we’re not going to force you to wear one because the city isn’t either.”

Wheat Penny’s staff say they’re continuing to wear masks to give staff and diners a peace of mind as we head into colder months.

“After the mandate came off last week, we had a discussion and everybody commented that very few of us got sick when we all wore masks,” said Chef Liz Valenti. “So the consensus was let’s keep wearing our masks, not only to prevent COVID but other germs from passing.”

The Ohio Restaurant Association says they will be officially asking cities Wednesday across Ohio to expand outdoor dining as long as they can to help the industry stay afloat.