NEWBURYPORT — Representatives for Lexie's, a downtown burger joint popular with teenagers, announced Wednesday the restaurant was immediately closing its State Street location after being unable to hire enough help to keep it operating.
"Due to staffing issues Lexie’s Newburyport will be closed until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience and will keep you all posted with more info as we can!" said a message posted on the restaurant's Facebook page.
Notice of the closure was taped to the front door, next to a large "help wanted" sign. Lexie's is part of a small chain of burger restaurants with locations in Portsmouth, Dover, and Exeter, New Hampshire, and a seasonal location in Newington, New Hampshire.
Kathleen O'Connor Ives, president of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce & Industry, recently called staffing issues an "identifiable challenge" for local eateries as they gear up for the state's full reopening on Saturday after more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s a definite need," she said last week. "There are more openings than folks filling them. It’s going to be a challenge for restaurants to transition so quickly."
To help connect restaurant owners with college students looking for jobs, the chamber is working with Northern Essex Community College and the Newburyport mayor's office on a virtual job fair. The date for the job fair has not been determined, O'Connor Ives said.
"It's a great opportunity," she added.
Lexie's first opened on Islington Street in Portsmouth and expanded to Newburyport, Exeter and other locations by 2016. The owners then began selling burgers from a bus.
Otis Street resident Valerie Natoli called Lexie's closure a "huge loss for the community" and said the restaurant served as a hangout for area teens, especially after school.
She also said Lexie's was a pocket of "normal" for teens during the worst of the pandemic when most restaurants closed their doors. Lexie's also closed but its takeout orders fueled teenagers and lifted their spirits.
"We feel very discouraged," Natoli said.
An email to Lexie's owners for comment and the status of their other locations was not returned in time for this report.
Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.