Monday, December 5 2022

The Lobby, a brunch-focused restaurant in a tall but welcoming late 19th-century building in downtown Denver, nearly closed in 2020 before being rescued largely by emergency federal aid to small businesses. Now, every weekend, it offers the sights, smells and sounds of an economic recovery that is beginning to become fully comfortable: a room full of diners chatting, leaning into each other in ways unimaginable there at 18 months.

Restaurant co-owner Christian Batizy is in an optimistic mood about his business and the local economy in general. “We’re probably 25% above our best year right now,” said Batizy, who opened the spot in 2009.

“Those of us who have been through the pandemic have come out in an economy where people are a little more willing to spend money,” he said, adding, “The gap between restaurant prices and cooking at home is shrinking with grocery prices having risen so much.The cost of food at home grew faster last year than the cost of restaurant meals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Consumer prices, which rose 7.9% in the 12 months to February, the biggest increase since 1982, have become deeply politicized. Republicans are blaming Mr. Biden for the price hike, a message that is likely to heat up as the midterm elections approach.

“Wages just can’t keep up with President Biden’s rampant, accelerating inflation,” Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said Friday. “Americans should prepare for even higher prices.”

Frustration with inflation, despite abundant jobs, transcends backgrounds, income levels and worldviews. Much of the hiring in the coming months “will be for low-wage service workers,” said Robert Frick, an economist at Navy Federal Credit Union. “Unfortunately, these workers are the hardest hit by high inflation, especially for basic necessities like gas and food.”

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