Staffing shortages hit businesses hard on Matlacha

Small businesses are being forced to either change their operations or close altogether. Two popular restaurants have already closed, and another is ending its takeout ordering process due to COVID-19.

The Blue Dog bar and grill is more than just a tourist hot spot on Matlacha. The locals love it too. So, seeing folded chairs, empty pitchers and few signs of life is an unusual site for those who love the restaurant.

Co-owner Jesse Tincher, who has already experienced some staffing shortages, says his decision to close was not made lightly.

“We make decisions for us and what’s best for us, safety-wise, health-wise, you know,” said Tincher.

Safety is his top priority for his workers. “We have over 50 people that work here, most of them are here locally on the island from the island, Pine Island, and taking care of you know, make sure that they’re safe and healthy,” Tincher said.

Every single one of his employees, Tincher says, is not just an employee. They are his family. “Most of my nighttime people, a lot of my nights and people that I have, high school, college kids, and I call my kids like, I love my kids,” he said.

Instead of serving the usual crowd, they’re catching up on paperwork. That consists of Tincher and his skeleton crew, whoever feels good enough to come to work, sanitizing and organizing.

This is the second closure he’s had since the pandemic began. The closures have made the past two years Tincher’s most difficult since he opened his bar seven years ago.

But Tincher believes that it’s better to close down temporarily than permanently. “So short term sacrifices for long term goals,” he said.

There is no definitive date for when the Blue Dog could reopen.

Olde Fish House Marina on Matlacha says it will close for a week to allow its staff to recover. And Miceli’s Waterfront Restaurant says it’s stopping to-go service for the same reason.

Reporter:Taylor Wirtz
Writer:Drew Hill
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