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Village Square Cafe shuts down in Cross Keys, blaming worker shortage

The Village Square Cafe in Cross Keys is set to close Friday after more than a decade in business, according to a Facebook post from the restaurant.

Owners Roseann and Robert Glick blamed the shutdown on a lack of workers, writing: “We simply cannot find qualified kitchen staff to keep up with the volume of business.”

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Restaurants across Baltimore and the nation have reported hiring woes amid competition for workers and massive upheaval in the labor force during the pandemic. To cope, many business owners are limiting their menu offerings and hours of operation.

In Federal Hill, TinyBrickOven pizzeria has been closed since late August because of staffing shortages, according to the business’ social media accounts. A post last month states: “[T]he current state of the labor market has made running the restaurant unsustainable for now.”

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At the Brewer’s Art in Mount Vernon, a note on the menu encourages people to apply for jobs in the kitchen. The restaurant has adopted a fast-casual format for indoor dining, whereby customers place food orders at the bar before taking a seat in the dining room.

And in Hampden, pizza shop Well Crafted Kitchen recently began seeking volunteers to help process tomatoes while the business is understaffed.

Other restaurants have begun offering hiring bonuses and increasing wages. Baltimore’s Atlas Restaurant Group recently announced they were increasing minimum wage to $15 for all positions.

The Village Square Cafe was the last remaining restaurant at the Village of Cross Keys. Its owners have announced plans to close.
The Village Square Cafe was the last remaining restaurant at the Village of Cross Keys. Its owners have announced plans to close. (Baltimore Sun photo by Barbara Haddock Taylor)

The closing of the Village Square Cafe marks the departure of the last remaining restaurant from the Village of Cross Keys in north Baltimore, which is undergoing renovation. Donna’s cafe closed in 2018, with owners citing a decrease in sales.

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Towson-based Caves Valley Partners acquired the Village of Cross Keys for $27 million in July 2020 from previous owner Ashkenazy Acquisitions Corp. The center has struggled with vacancies over several owners and was about 60% to 65% occupied in both retail and office portions at the time of the sale.

The exit “obviously leaves Cross Keys in a difficult position short-term,” Arsh Mirmiran of Caves Valley Partners wrote in an email. Developers are looking to find a new operator to step in “as soon as possible,” he added.

Caves Valley plans to build additional retail space at the site, including a grocery store and restaurants, as well as a 350-unit apartment building.

Village Square Cafe customer Jean Appleton, who lives in Better Waverly, called the restaurant “a linchpin to a larger community,” including the surrounding area in Northern Baltimore. The closure “is an enormous surprise to a lot of people,” she said, including elderly residents in the development who counted on the business for dinner.

Many customers shared their disappointment at the closure on Facebook, commenting on the restaurant’s page. “And I was just wondering how this year could get any worse,” one wrote.

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