LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Restaurants across the Commonwealth are dealing with a new pandemic-era dilemma, operating under extremely short-staffed circumstances.

What You Need To Know

  • Kentucky restaurants are short staffed

  • Many restaurants are struggling to hire employees back, after letting them go during the height of the pandemic

  • The Kentucky Restaurant Association is pushing for a firm calendar date for reopening

The Restaurant Association calls it a crisis, and is hoping a firm reopening date from the governor may ease the issues. 

People are finally frequenting The Raven Irish Pub in St. Matthews again. Business is on the upswing, fortunately, for owner Brendan McCarten. But it's meant more hours for McCarten and his limited staff. He's serving, cleaning, managing, and more.

"I was doing 100 hours a week, which to me it’s fine. It’s my body’s condition. But the staff, 40 hours is a lot for them," McCarten explains. "So we’re tired, you know. I know, I’m the owner. I have to do it."

It means fewer days off for him and his staff, as McCarten continues trying to hire more help. He's "leaned heavily" on the help of friends and family, at the pub.

Stacy Roof, President of the Kentucky Restaurant Association, calls it a crisis. She feels several factors explain the shortage. 

"Last year every time a restriction changed, restaurants were always part of the mix" she hypothesizes, "it’s back and forth and at some point, people just had to get other jobs."

Now, Roof is one hoping Gov. Andy Beshear can set a reopening date on the calendar. She feels the certainty can encourage more people to return to work.

"If we don’t have a certain date that we can circle on the calendar and say 'this is what we’re gearing up for', then that doesn’t create the urgency you know in those people that would come back to work," says Roof.

Beshear has said his metric of dropping some restrictions at the point when 2.5 million Kentuckians are vaccinated, is meant to keep people safe and encourage them to be vaccinated.

McCarten hopes that will happen sooner rather than later. He will keep trying to hire staff, too, in the meantime. 

"Please be patient with our staff before you throw a tantrum or get verbal," he pleads of customers. "You know, I was verbally abused two Mondays ago, and I just stood there and took it."

The Restaurant Association has also spoken at Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles' roundtable discussions around the state.

Quarles said in a statement, in part: "a reopening date will give our businesses and workers time to plan, train staff, and source products."