HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Downtown Harrisburg businesses took a hit when state employees began working from home during the pandemic. Daily lunch crowds dwindled down, but restaurants are ready for a comeback, now that Governor Josh Shapiro has ordered thousands of state employees to return to the state Capitol in-person.

“Since lockdown, it’s been a struggle to stay open through lunches,” said Adam Sturges, owner of McGrath’s Pub and Sturges Speakeasy in downtown Harrisburg. He also owns Mad Moose in Midtown.

For Sturges, work-from-home culture has made his life a lot harder.

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“We are really dependent on people working in downtown Harrisburg,” he said.

None of his restaurants deliver, and takeout sales aren’t enough.

“Less people are living in downtown or Midtown, we’re not really seeing that much of a takeout business,” he said.

Before the pandemic, Sturges said government employees were a big customer base.

“Friday lunches, that used to be the bread and butter, you knew you were going to have a busy Friday lunch and it would carry right through into happy hour,” he explained.

While some employees have come back to the Capitol, it has not been the same.

“Friday lunches have been very slow,” Sturges said.

When he heard the governor was bringing more state employees back in-person, it was great news.

“It’s really nice to know that we’re going to have business coming back down,” he said.

This is also good for staffing. Arooga’s on 2nd Street said this change will help them keep staff. Employees who might otherwise be stuck working on takeout orders will get to interact with customers face-to-face.

Sturges said this will help him hire more staff. He said about 20 percent of his restaurants’ positions are open.

“I need a couple more servers, I probably need another two managers, and probably another eight cooks,” he said. “If the servers and bartenders are making money, it definitely makes it easier to justify hiring.”

For now, Sturges is waiting, hoping to see those clients flood back in come March.

“Knowing that we’re going to have people back at the capital complex in force, it’ll make lunches a little easier for us,” he said.

Under Shapiro’s order, 2,300 state employees will be required to work in the office for at least three days a week beginning March 6.