VICTORIA -- Like many restaurants across Vancouver Island, the Brentwood Bay Pub is dealing with a labour shortage, and is pulling out all the stops to recruit more staff.

Natasha Richardson, who manages the Brentwood Bay Resort, says the business is taking steps including increasing wages, providing larger bonuses for staff who successfully recruit new employees and providing stress pay for managers.

“Many managers are working excessive hours and a lot of days in a row, which is extraordinary to cope with,” she said Tuesday, noting the pub is hoping to hire 10 more staff.

The labour shortage in Greater Victoria has been exacerbated by how expensive it is to live in the area.

British Columbia’s minimum wage just went up last month to $15.20 per hour, but that doesn’t get close to Greater Victoria’s living wage, calculated by the Living Wage for families Campaign at $19.39 per hour for a family of four to get by, living in the area.

The cost of living makes it harder for restaurants to attract workers to fill entry-level positions, typically associated with lower wages, says Cliff Leir, who runs the Fol Epi bakeries.

In an effort to attract staff in the competitive labour market, Leir started paying staff a living wage of $20 an hour.

“It’s tough to live in this city,” Leir said. “Even with the minimum wage increase, it’s tough to make rent and live a satisfying life.”

He says he’s still hoping to hire a few more staff.

Bruce Williams, the head of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, says the labour shortage existed before the pandemic, and affects many industries. The shortage has only become worse because of COVID-19 restrictions impacting immigration and reducing the presence of college students, which has reduced the pool of potential workers.

Throw in folks leaving the hospitality industry after so many COVID-19-related layoffs and unpredictable shifts, and it all adds up to being a prime time for those now looking for work in the sector.

Sarj Dhaliwal heads up a Vancouver-based company that developed an app, called Wyrk, that helps pair employers looking for staff with workers seeking shifts.

“It’s kinda like a dating app,” she said Tuesday. “It's the same concept, except it's for workers. We connect – through our algorithms and AI – workers with hourly work.”

The company has been inundated with requests from businesses hoping to meet their matches, and with the labour shortage forecast well beyond the pandemic, it expects to stay busy.