Upward of 150 private events and parties are set to kick off on Super Bowl week, and organizers are facing a battle with an unexpected foe: the estimated 2.4 percent unemployment rate in Minneapolis.
Event organizers looking for cooks, dishwashers, servers, bartenders and security personnel are having difficulty filling open positions.
"It's absolutely crazy," said Jerome Gerber, vice president of Award Staffing, which has turned down hundreds of staffing requests. "The companies that were coming in to manage the Super Bowl and manage all these events didn't have a proper understanding of the pay rates they were going to need to operate within the Twin Cities marketplace."
The organizers of one large downtown event called Gerber and asked him to help them find 1,000 workers. The pay? $11 per hour.
"We told them no. It wasn't worth the effort," Gerber said. "We've turned down every job that wasn't paying a minimum of $16 an hour simply because of the competition that week."
Gerber's being choosy, he said, because workers signing up for a short-term gig will be quick to abandon the assignment if they're offered more by another event. And, he said, they will be offered more as the Super Bowl draws near.
"Into the next 10 days, those that don't have staff are going to start panicking and start increasing pay rates," Gerber said.
The Bullseye Event Group, which is hosting an event called the "Players Tailgate" a couple blocks from U.S. Bank Stadium, posted on Craigslist last week looking for up to 32 dishwashers, food passers, and bussers, offering $15 per hour for six- to eight-hour shifts. NFL players and celebrity chefs such as Guy Fieri will host people inside a tent on 3rd Street.
Karin Gorman, head of operations for Bullseye, said she's never had to post to Craigslist before in 30 years of organizing Super Bowl parties. The Super Bowl host committee has been good to work with, she said, and the permitting process with the city has been the best she's experienced. But finding staff for the event has been a battle, Gorman said.
"I started this back in June, and I am just now barely getting filled," she said. "I have had to go in a lot of different directions, which is great to use my creativity as a recruiter, but I can't imagine the trouble for someone who doesn't have that background."
Staffing agencies are quoting her prices that are twice as high — up to $50 an hour — as what she usually sees.
Jim Johnson, owner of Express Employment Professionals, said his agency is turning down requests because the city's unemployment is at a 45-year low and workers aren't interested in a short gig over the weekend.
"We've turned down companies calling us for servers and bartenders," he said.
Tim Mahoney, owner of the Loon Cafe in downtown Minneapolis, said some of the private party organizers are trying to lure staff away from restaurants for the week.
"They're trying to poach workers," Mahoney said.
He's told employees that if they leave for better wages for Super Bowl week, they might not have a job on Feb. 5, the day after the Super Bowl.
Mahoney said he's wondering whether the Super Bowl will end up being like the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, where the large number of private events drew all the energy from restaurants.
"Is this going to be like the RNC or is it going to be something different?" Mahoney said.
Adam Belz • 612-673-4405 Twitter: @adambelz