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'Struggling to get more people': Louisville business owners are excited for summer but share common problem

While pandemic restrictions have lessened and customers return, one problem persists.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Daniel Passafiume first launched In Season Harvest Kitchen on West Main around Derby time last year. 

While pandemic restrictions have lessened and customers return, one problem persists.

"The people that we have are great, we're really fast at lunch," Passafiume said. "But, we're really struggling to get more people."

He wants to add breakfast to his schedule, but can't find the additional staff to make the change.

It's something we've been hearing for a while now. But is it getting better?

Kentuckiana Works said yes. Director of Labor Market Intelligence Sarah Ehresman pointed to two pieces of data that show growth in Louisville's hospitality workforce.

Quarterly Workforce Indicator from the US Census shows steady growth into the third quarter of 2021 for food services and drinking places in Jefferson County. 

For more recent data, The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a similar trend through March of this year for leisure and hospitality in the Louisville region. But, numbers are still down about 9% compared to this time in 2020.

It's a struggle for existing restaurants and a hurdle for new ones trying to open.

"We were expecting to be open at least a month ago," Shawn Cantley said about his soon-to-open restaurant South Seas.

He's been working to open the Butchertown location since January. 

After struggling with orders and deliveries, he hopes to open this Monday.

Still, he's having issues staffing the kitchen. He's not alone. 

"It's definitely harder than the other positions," Kyle Ferguson told WHAS11 News, standing in the soon-to-be Railyard Billiards and Sports Club.

Fergeson and his brother Matt are planning to open Louisville's largest pool hall. 

Previously, the two big pool halls in the metro were owned by Diamond Pub and Billiards.

"We actually thought this was going to be our direct competitor at the time," Matt said.

When they closed earlier this year, Railyard Billiards and Sports Club found a new home - and support system.

Kyle said, "A lot of people have reached out and said, anything we can do to help?  A lot of times, when we post a position people are tagging other people, ya know?" 

Even with that help, it's hard to fill the kitchen. Matt said they're about halfway to fully staffed in the back. Still, they hope to open on May 20.

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