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wine 'n' dine Staff shortages mean it’s still a ‘waiting’ game for restaurateurs as indoor dining gets the go-ahead

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John and Angela O’Sullivan, owners of Roly’s Restaurant in Dublin’s Ballsbridge

John and Angela O’Sullivan, owners of Roly’s Restaurant in Dublin’s Ballsbridge

Publican Rory O'Neill, aka Panti Bliss. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Publican Rory O'Neill, aka Panti Bliss. Photo: Gerry Mooney

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John and Angela O’Sullivan, owners of Roly’s Restaurant in Dublin’s Ballsbridge

They’ve finally got the Government’s green light to reopen indoor dining next Monday, but restaurateurs have another frustrating uphill battle on their hands – a chronic shortage of staff.

“There have been staffing problems in the industry over the years, but this is the worst I’ve ever seen and it’s right across the board and there are no chefs, no porters and no wait staff,” said John O’Sullivan, owner of Roly’s Restaurant in Dublin’s Ballsbridge.

A senior figure in the Irish restaurant scene with more than 60 years’ experience, the Bandon-born restaurateur said: “I was in business in the 1980s when you couldn’t get any staff at all. It was impossible, but this is worse.”

The task of finding porters and waiting staff has kept restaurateurs like Mr O’Sullivan and his wife, Angela, on their toes for weeks.

“Roly’s Restaurant is famous for being open seven days a week, but we certainly can’t open our restaurant next Monday and Tuesday,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

Yesterday afternoon, the couple confirmed they will open only their first-floor restaurant.

It means the Dublin dining scene institution will be open for three nights a week from Thursday to Saturday, plus Sunday lunch starting next week and throughout the month of August.

They were anxious to reopen the first-floor restaurant, which was totally refurbished during lockdown, but could only open for three weeks of indoor dining before it had to close.

However, the couple who have had a string of restaurants around Dublin including Blakes in Stillorgan, Flanagans and Gallaghers in the city centre and Oscar Taylors in Malahide last week opened a new terrace area at the side of Roly’s.

The ‘outdoor dining’ concept, with fold-back walls and 50 seats, will continue to operate seven days a week.

“We have been doing everything we can to find wait staff through job searches and advertising. Staff have been asking friends and if they find someone, they get a bonus,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

“Most other hotels and restaurants say that finding chefs is a big problem but we are lucky that we have Paul Cartwright, a partner and chef de cuisine, and some of his team of chefs have been with us for 14 years.

“Finding porters is a big problem too, but not as bad as finding wait staff,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

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Meanwhile, in Dublin city centre, publican Panti Bliss has said she will not be reopening either of her pubs until all her staff are vaccinated.

The owner of Panti Bar and Pennylane in Dublin announced on social media yesterday she will not be reopening indoor dining service.

The performer, also known as Rory O’Neill, has made the decision in light of the Government’s ruling to reopen indoor dining next Monday.

Speaking on Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio 1 yesterday, Mr O’Neill said: “I’m fully vaccinated and reasonably fit and healthy so I’m pretty relaxed about it personally, but I don’t want to make that decision for the young staff that we have working for us and obviously in our bars, along with most hospitality venues, the staff tend to be very young and very few of them have been fully vaccinated yet.

“We are also very lucky that Dublin City Council pedestrianised Capel Street at the weekends, so we do have some outdoor space now and with the weather as it has been it’s been successful, we’ve been doing well.

“So, for us it was a relatively easy decision to say we’ll wait a few more weeks until everyone is vaccinated.

“We’re still of course really looking forward to eventually being able to open indoors again.”

Mr O’Neill added that he understands that not all business owners will have the ability to provide outdoor dining.

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