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Tables left empty as restaurants struggle to hire staff


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Tables left empty as restaurants struggle to hire staff Tables left empty as restaurants struggle to hire staff

Table occupancy in some of the city’s restaurants has been limited to 50% – as owners are finding it difficult to recruit chefs and kitchen staff.

And the full extent of the pandemic on the hospitality sector will be revealed at the annual licensing court in September, when it is expected that several publicans will not be renewing their licences.

According to Senator Ollie Crowe, whose family runs Crowe’s Bar in Bohermore, the hospitality industry in Galway is going through a crisis situation through a lack of staff.

“It is quite disconcerting to go into a restaurant to be told that there is no availability when several tables in the premises are unoccupied. It must seem mad from a tourist perspective,” the Fianna Fáil senator told the Galway City Tribune.

Senator Crowe said that in the vast majority of cases in Galway, the restaurants are using about 70% of their tables but in some premises it can be as low as 50% – depending on staffing levels.

Some have also reduced their opening hours, while others are not opening on Mondays and Tuesdays and close early on Sunday evenings.

The senator raised the matter in the Seanad when he asked that the ‘red tape’ associated with the visa process for non-EU citizens who want to work in this country be streamlined.

“From speaking to publicans, I know the challenges the staff shortages are causing during this crisis. Simplifying the EU process for non-EU citizens is something that could have a real impact in terms of tackling the issue.”

He then highlighted a situation in Galway City where a restaurant owner was in the process of hiring a chef only to be told that the job had to be advertised for a month in advance of recruiting this person.

“He had to go back to the start of the process again. This permit situation is having an impact. In Galway there are certain top-class bars and restaurants that have only 50%, 60% or 70% of their tables allocated because they do not have the resources in the kitchen,” Senator Crowe added.

He explained that many of those working in hospitality sought alternative employment during the pandemic and were simply not returning to the industry.

Representing the Government, Minister of State Damien English explained that the time taken to process a general work permit had been reduced to 13 weeks from 22.

However, he said that permits should be a last resort when it comes to those who are employed.

“We try to source talent within the country, then in Europe and then we go beyond that. The system responds and we have prioritised the hospitality sector at this time of year, as we did last year.

“Hundreds of permits for chefs have been granted. We will do more in the next couple of weeks,” the Minister of State pointed out.

There has been no annual licensing court over the past couple of years, but it will resume this September and Senator Crowe believes the full extent of the pub crisis will be revealed.

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