Staff hous­ing short­age in In­go­nish

Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Of­fi­cer Pa­trick Austin will push bil­let­ing pro­gram North of Smokey in the off-sea­son

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - CAROLYN BAR­BER

In­go­nish restau­rants are clos­ing their doors one day per week due to lack of staff, and lack of staff ac­com­mo­da­tions.

The fam­ily-owned Seag­ull Restau­rant in In­go­nish is des­per­ate for an­other cook. This is the first time in the restau­rant’s 44-year his­tory that they haven’t been able to find one.

“We could have had peo­ple from Syd­ney Mines that we know of, but there's nowhere to put them,” said Seag­ull man­ager Gail Ma­clean.

Ma­clean man­ages a staff of 13, and has five wait­staff on at all times that work 10-hour shifts. Most menu items are made from scratch. Right now, giv­ing ev­ery­one the rest they need means clos­ing Mon­days.

Down the road, co-own­ers of the Salty Rose’s and the Peri­win­kle Café, Sara­beth Drover and cousin Cait­lyn Pur­cell, find them­selves in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion. The café sells cof­fee and baked goods on Tues­days, but the kitchen is closed to pre­vent staff burn-out and to al­low time for menu prep. Ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing the bread and mayo used in the crab sand­wich, is made in­house by their three kitchen staff.

Drover says the fully-li­censed busi­ness is go­ing well two-years in, but more staff are needed to cap­ture other busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties. She would like to throw ap­pe­tizer and wine/beer events in the evening, but lacks the staff to sup­port it.

“I would say we're at a stand­still.”

“We have the ca­pac­ity to do

won­der­ful cater­ing and we have done a cou­ple al­ready this sum­mer. But, I just de­cided af­ter dis­cussing it with the staff, af­ter do­ing a 40-per­son wed­ding and a 14-per­son wed­ding two week­ends in a row, we just can't do it.”

Drover feels the café, with its unique menu and use of fresh lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, is a de­sir­able place for culi­nary arts stu­dents. She be­lieves the beauty of In­go­nish would also be en­tic­ing for restau­rant em­ploy­ees in ur­ban cen­ters. They ad­ver­tised on the In­ter­net for months be­fore open­ing - Ki­jiji, Face­book Mar­ket­place and Things to Buy in In­go­nish - with no re­sponse.

“I think that if there were ac­com­mo­da­tion, then we would have the staff, peo­ple would be ap­ply­ing from Hal­i­fax, Truro, New Glas­gow and other parts of Nova Sco­tia, or even be­yond.”

Ja­son Le­blanc, co-owner of The Coastal Wa­ters Restau­rant, says he has been lucky so far this sea­son, though ex­pects he will even­tu­ally be in the same boat as his coun­ter­parts at the Seag­ull, the Peri­win­kle and the Main­street Restau­rant and Bak­ery which closes Wed­nes­days. Le­blanc had to close Fri­day, July 27 un­til 3pm to re­stock and prep for the week­end.

Nearby clo­sures mean cus­tomer over­flow at his restau­rant, which in turn cuts into much-needed down­time. Le­blanc does not be­grudge the ex­tra busi­ness. He is aware of the staffing chal­lenges in the area.

“It’s a huge prob­lem. Peo­ple have been say­ing that for years. Ac­tu­ally, my busi­ness part­ner and I thought a few times whether it would be worth it to put up maybe an eight or ten-unit build­ing for staff ac­com­mo­da­tions for the area. We don't re­ally have the money by our­selves to do that right now. I think it would be huge, though. I think peo­ple want to work here. They just have nowhere to stay.”

This sum­mer, Vic­to­ria County pi­loted a bil­let­ing pro­gram in an at­tempt to re­solve em­ployee ac­com­mo­da­tion short­ages. County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Of­fi­cer (EDO) Pa­trick Austin says 20 room rentals be­came avail­able, but only be­tween Baddeck and Iona. Fif­teen of those were rented out. Austin says the process is sim­ple and a safe way for peo­ple to bring in ad­di­tional in­come. Only a one-page fixed lease agree­ment is re­quired.

Austin said they had dif­fi­culty iden­ti­fy­ing po­ten­tial ren­ters in the In­go­nish area this sum­mer.

“I don't think we're go­ing to find any­thing for this year, but with the lessons that we've learned as we got this pro­gram go­ing this year, we're go­ing to push a lit­tle more ag­gres­sively in the In­go­nish come fall and win­ter to get it on peo­ple's radar.”

Learn more about the bil­let­ing pro­gram her: https:// cape­bre­ton­part­ner­ bil­let­ing-pro­gram.

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