“I’ve never known anything like it’ - popular Chesterfield pub suffers staffing crisis

A well-loved Chesterfield pub is facing a staffing crisis as it struggles to keep its doors open during the week.

Friday, 8th October 2021, 2:40 pm
Updated Friday, 8th October 2021, 3:36 pm
The County Music Bar in Chesterfield has been hit by staff shortages in recent weeks

Phillip Deacon, owner of the County Music Bar in Chesterfield, said in his four years as owner, he has never before had concerns about staffing.

However, after pubs reopened fully earlier this year, Mr Deacon said staff shortages forced him to stop serving food and to remain closed on some weekdays.

“I’ve never known anything like it – there’s stories about a lot of industries suffering at the moment but certainly in the hospitality industry, and with our bar, we just absolutely cannot find staff.

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“It’s a scary time for us as an industry, having just recovered from lockdowns and starting to rebuild again.

"Especially for us as a music venue, our attendance numbers are still down on what they were pre-lockdown, and I can’t expect the few staff I do have to work every single hour we’re open.”

Mr Deacon believed two factors might be at play – potential employees have forgotten about the challenges of working in hospitality and the pandemic has left people more reluctant to work.

“There’s no doubt hospitality is a stressful industry,” he said.

"People have forgotten that it’s hard work, but it is very rewarding if you’re the right kind of person.

“I genuinely feel that lockdown has affected people’s work ethic. That’s probably an unpopular opinion, I’ll probably get crucified for it, but I feel a lot of people have lost that work ethic and drive they had before, and that's a big problem we face right now – everyone wants a job but nobody wants to work.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of people out there who are unemployed but there is work out there.”

Mr Deacon has increased wages for his staff, although said the costs associated with running a pub meant pay rises had to be sensible to avoid impacting customers.

“We’ve looked at wage structure. We’re offering one of the best wage packets in the local area, and we’re also looking at offering a bonus structure for staff.

“Small independents like us want to pay our staff well because we want their commitment, we want them to stay. Until the government changes things like business rates, beer duty and taxes, we have a limit to how far we can push that without passing it onto the consumer.

“I’d happily pay all my staff £15 an hour if I could, but if I did, customers might be paying £7.50 a pint – would they be prepared to pay more if it meant staff got paid more too?”

Mr Deacon also said, while most customers appreciate the challenges facing the industry, he asked them to remain considerate.

“On a Saturday night it's very easy for customers to come in and moan that it takes five or ten minutes longer to get served at the bar, or the glasses haven’t been taken off their tables quite as quickly. They have to realise we are in a permanent state of short-staffing, and we just need a bit of understanding for that.”