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Uptown Charlotte Businesses Hope For Boost As Office Workers Begin To Return

 The Overstreet Mall in uptown Charlotte is deserted during lunchtime on a recent weekday.
Nick de la Canal
The Overstreet Mall in uptown Charlotte is deserted during lunchtime on a recent weekday.

Some of Charlotte's largest banks are preparing to bring workers back to the office in the coming weeks, and that could bring back some life to restaurants and retail stores in uptown that have been deserted for much of the pandemic.

Angel Sotomayor is the general manager of Uncle Maddio's Pizza in uptown. It's one of the few places in the Overstreet Mall that remained open during the past year.

Before the shutdown, the restaurant would be packed around lunchtime, Sotomayer said. Not anymore.

"It's horrible. You don't see nobody here," he said.

Businesses dropped nearly 80%, and the restaurant's 11 employees got cut to four, Sotomayer said.

Business may pick up again soon. Bank of America is planning to bring vaccinated employees back to the office after Labor Day.

However, the spreading delta variant of COVID-19 has prompted Wells Fargo to push back its return to Oct. 4, and Truist tells The Charlotte Observer that its employees may not come back until November.

Sotomayer wants those workers to come back sooner rather than later, although he said he's struggling to get his former staff back together.

"Right now I'm trying to call them back again, but it's not the same, you know? They don't want to come back anymore," he said.

He said he needs to find more workers soon or risk getting overwhelmed once business picks back up.

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Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal