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INDIANAPOLIS — Downtown Indianapolis is days away from welcoming thousands of college football fans. The 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship game is set for Monday, January 10, but local businesses are preparing for crowds to come in as early as this Thursday.

“As of right now, it’s going to be all hands on deck,” said Billy Dickson, marketing and hiring manager for Pier 48 Fish House & Oyster Bar.

Dickson said his employees are looking forward to the revenue that comes with hosting such a large event, but he admits staffing levels are not where he would like them to be.

“We definitely could use, you know, two or three more qualified people to come in and help assist us,” said Dickson. “But as of right now, we’re staffed to what we can be staffed.”

Dickson said Pier 48 is not alone in the search for more staff — adding that he has seen several “help wanted” signs downtown.

“Obviously, you know, we have some labor tightness like most industries do, frankly, at this time. We’re not alone,” said Patrick Tamm, President and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association.

Tamm said downtown bars and restaurants have stepped up to the plate during past events and he does not doubt their ability to do so again. He said an event like the CFP game has the potential to bring in more staff.

“We use these events for other purposes which will further grow our economy – further grow job opportunities,” said Tamm. “Almost two years ago, we laid off over 214,000 people on Indiana’s restaurants. We laid off +90% of our hotel employees. These types of events help us re-attract that great talent.”

Tamm said local businesses are doing what they can to accommodate crowds – including expanding their business hours during peak times.

As for limiting the spread of COVID-19, Marion County businesses are no longer under restrictions. However, Dickson said his staff plans to continue sanitizing high-touch points and accommodating high-risk patrons.

“If you would prefer our server to wear a mask, we don’t have a problem putting a mask on or finding a server that does have a mask available for them to wear and for them to be around you,” said Dickson.

“We are also the most regulated industry pre-COVID,” said Tamm. “So we’ve been very cognizant of those issues, particularly as it relates to downtown.”