NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – With Nashville’s indoor mask mandate and capacity restrictions ending, people are excited to get back to normal this summer, but many business owners say they are struggling to staff their restaurants.
Restaurants and bars are seeing a surge of customers as tourism returns to Music City. According to the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation, 115 new restaurants have opened since the start of 2020. Five hotels are under construction and four of them are set to open this year.
Sixty Vines, a new restaurant downtown offering a unique culinary experience and more than 60 wines on tap, just opened at Fifth + Broad.
“Staffing has been the polar opposite of interest from the community and guests,” said Jeff Carcara, the restaurant’s CEO. “We started hiring about three months ago and it’s been difficult to say the least. We had to push our opening a little bit because we haven’t been able to fully hire our staff.”
The restaurant is primarily looking for servers and bartenders and hopes that more will apply now that the establishment is officially opened. They have actively been recruiting hospitality workers locally, but believe the impact the pandemic had on the industry may be making people hesitant to return.
“I think there’s a lot of people in the restaurant industry and community that at the time they said ‘it’s time for something new; I want to try something different,'” Carcara said. “So, I think there’s a lot of people that have shifted.”
Job seekers were recently invited to attend a hospitality industry job fair at Opryland and Music City Center. The Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation tells News 2 more than 300 people came out over the course of the two-day job fair. City leaders say a strong workforce is key to the hospitality industry’s rebound.
Governor Bill Lee recently announced federal pandemic unemployment funding will end in Tennessee on July 3rd, taking away the $300 unemployment benefit. Currently, there are more than 109,000 Tennesseans that depend on the program. The governor wants people to feel more motivated to get back to work, but others say it’s not that easy and there are still families struggling.
“I wouldn’t understand why we wouldn’t get all of the relief that we can,” said Nashville Mayor John Cooper. “It was clearly a hardship for COVID, which the state is aware, so get all the resources you can to help all of the people. It’s pretty simple, I think, and I obviously think we should do that.”
Business owners throughout the industry, including Carcara, hope to see more people encouraged to get back to work, especially in time for summer.