Hiring during a pandemic: The Colonial Quarter shares struggles

By Maiya Mahoney

The 18th century-style Spanish inspired tavern, Taberna del Caballo, is one of the restaurants associated with The Colonial Quarter.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many businesses in St. Augustine. With many COVID-19 restrictions and precautions still in place, new challenges face businesses. 

Hiring during the pandemic has been difficult for Jason Pilacek, the Director of Food and Beverage for The Colonial Quarter. The Colonial Quarter consists of Bull & Crown Publick House, St. Augustine Seafood Company, Taberna del Caballo and the Colonial Oak Music Park, which can all be found on St. George Street in St. Augustine.

“Since COVID-19, not as many people are inclined to want to work downtown and choose not to work due to the fear of possibly being exposed,” Pilacek said. “We also have to believe that some of them with stimulus money were making decent money on unemployment.” 

With the fear of exposure to the virus in a populated tourist town and stimulus money, The Colonial Quarter has had many employees not return. A loss of employees has forced Pilacek to work with a reduced staff. 

“A large number of restaurants in the downtown area have opened up and have depleted possible employees,” Pilacek said. “We have a reduced staff and what we offer on the property is limited; we aren’t fully open. Taberna del Caballo opened sporadically based on staffing issues and we opened up Bull & Crown Publick House only about two months ago.”

Being able to bouncing back after being closed due to the pandemic has been difficult, and has presented new challenges, even with the reduced staff Pilacek has.

“If any of our current employees have been exposed or have symptoms, then our company policy is that they need to adhere to CDC guidelines and not work for at least three days,” Pilacek said. “We strongly encourage them to get tested, but getting test results back quicker than three days is a challenge.”

Adhering to CDC guidelines and getting results back in a timely manner is a challenge, which makes scheduling employees difficult for Pilacek.

“It has been quite mentally and physically exhausting on a day-to-day basis to juggle who is going to be here and when others can return, while still dealing with large business numbers,” Pilacek said. 

Despite a reduced staff and challenges hiring new faces, The Colonial Quarter and its restaurants have actually seen business increasing. 

“We are still performing understaffed at the moment, but business has been up,” Pilacek said. “I can honestly say that we are pleased that in the last month or so more people are taking it upon themselves to wear masks even on the streets. Hopefully, we will be on the other side of this [pandemic] soon.” 

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