BloNo bars ready for bridge phase, concerned about being short-staffed

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BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — In the twin cities, bars and restaurants are seeing more business as the state reopens, but are having trouble keeping up with staffing.

Recently, Dr. McKay’s Bar & Grille announced reduced hours to their kitchen, after having trouble keeping a full staff of cooks.

The change, coming just a week before Illinois moves into Governor J.B. Pritzker’s bridge phase of the Reopen Illinois plan.

General manager of Dr. McKay’s Tyler Porter said it’s a huge problem affecting people all across the country.

“We are definitely super busy all the time and it’s very hard to keep up with the capacity and volume we’re doing already. Even with to-goes, we haven’t seen a huge slow down in sales as much in staff,” Porter said.

Right now, the bar has reduced its kitchen hours to 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. in order to give their cooks days off and normal day shifts. Porter said they’re having trouble even getting anyone to interview for the jobs.

“We went from a lot of staff to a little staff really fast and we cant find more people to hire so we got to adjust our hours for the people that we have so we don’t overwork them and make sure their quality of life is still good,” Porter said. “I think the extra money enticed people to just stay home at this point and a lot of people are still afraid of COVID too.”

In downtown, The Lucca Grill is giving workers an incentive to come back to work, raising wages to levels they haven’t been before at the grill. Cooks will make $15 an hour and tipped staff (bartenders and servers) will make $9 an hour.

Co-owner Tony Smith said both of those wages are well above the State’s minimum wage guidlines.

“It’s a competition, I mean everybody in town is hiring right now and the fact that it’s just the right thing to do,” Smith said. “It’s something we’ve talked about a lot and we’ ran the numbers and found out what it would take for us to do that, we decided to pull the trigger and do it.”

At Lucca Grill, Smith says back-the-house staff (cooks, dishwashers) are pretty well-staffed, but servers and bartender numbers are slim, especially with the potential for increased capacity as the state is just one month away from Phase Five.

“Anybody with serving experience or even without serving experience we’re looking for you,” Smith said.

Both bars looking for any kind of help and will fit people in as needed.

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