Uptown Cafe among dozens of restaurants looking to hire
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Remember in February when Derby City Weekend reported that the venerable Uptown Cafe would be re-opening in the spring? Well, it’s still true, and the owners are hiring.
The popular eatery along Bardstown Road organized its first hiring event Tuesday and had another one planned for Thursday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
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After 35 years, Uptown Cafe served its last meal late last year, a victim of the COVID pandemic.
Then, in February, Tom Drexler and his wife bought the restaurant and are aiming to open next month.
“They felt like it was an opportunity to come in and keep the restaurant open because it was such a mainstay here in the Highlands,” John King, Uptown Cafe’s operating manager, said.
King was previously in the restaurant business until he went into banking. When Drexler called about the plan to reopen Uptown Cafe, King said he couldn’t believe it.
“I said, ‘You’re crazy. This is not the time to be getting into the restaurant business.’ However, it may be the perfect time to get into the restaurant business. We think we’re starting to come out of the pandemic. Things are starting to turn a little bit,” King said.
Over the past few months, they have been renovating the building: repainting, adding new light fixtures, and expanded the space to include a new private party room that can be rented.
However, the main things about the restaurant, including the menu, will stay the same.
A large majority of the core staff, including their chef, sous-chef, pastry chef, and front-of-the-house manager will all return to working at the cafe.
King said as he’s learned over the past few months, the restaurant has a big following and people are excited to dine there again.
“They are all so excited about us keeping the menu [and] keeping the food the same way,” King said about the restaurant’s social media followers. “They all want the same dishes. Everybody has their favorite dishes. I mean, it’s amazing to me how much following we have.”
In order to reopen, the restaurant needs more staff and is looking to hire for all positions, including kitchen and bar staff and servers.
“The talent pool and workforce is small because there’s not a lot of opportunity there, so we’re hoping that as things start opening up we’ll start to see more people who want to come back to work,” King said.
Uptown Cafe isn’t the only place looking to hire more workers. The Kentucky Restaurant Association told WAVE 3 News restaurants and other businesses all over are hiring, too, ahead of Kentucky’s restrictions ending on June 11.
“I think that just means that every employer is trying by the best of their ability to staff up, bring people back be ready,” Stacy Roof, the Kentucky Restaurant Association president and CEO, said. “And you know our industry is never 100% fully staffed even before all of this started so now we’re really scrambling and we want to make sure we bring people back. Maybe people who have been on our teams before or folks that have been in the industry that were forced really to get other jobs while we were closed. And we just want them to come back.”
Roof said the biggest issue over the last several months has been staffing. She encouraged people to be patient with restaurants as they adjust to reopening.
“Be understanding as best you can,” she said. “We’re just trying to do the best we can in the situations that we’ve been given and believe me, we’re the hospitality business. We want everybody to have a great experience, to have a great meal, have a great drink, whatever it might be. So just bear with us while we’re getting through all of this.”
King said they are aiming for a mid-to-late June reopening for Uptown Cafe, but it all depends on staffing. So they’re asking for a little more patience.
“We want to do it right. One thing we don’t want to do is open up and not be ready and you guys don’t like what we opened up to so we’re trying to do it the right way.”
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