Experts: Bar workers have moved on to other jobs due to closure prompted by COVID-19 pandemic

Local bars have been some of the hardest-hit businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many bars have been shut down for more than half the year, leaving many bartenders and other restaurant workers, without a job.

Now that they’re opening back up again, many bar owners are finding it more difficult to find bartenders. Experts say instead of waiting for bars to open up again, many workers have already moved on.

Bar owner voices concerns

Kay’s Place in Mesa has been a local watering hole since the 1960’s, and while the owners have been able to keep it open, they say filling their bartender openings is surprisingly difficult right now.

"I could put an ad in craigslist overnight, my inbox would be full. Now, they’re trickling in. If I get one or two a day, that’s a lot," said co-owner Dylan Hatch.

So, where have all the bartenders gone?

"We have seen folks move out of state. People make the decision get out of the industry altogether," said Steve Chucri with the Arizona Restaurant Association.

Chucri says, most owners are looking for experienced and responsible bartenders. The job requires more than in years mixing and pouring.

"There’s a lot more to it than pouring beer and mixing a drink," said Hatch. "There’s a lot more responsibility than there was a decade or two decades ago."

In addition to tending to customers’ orders, they must also monitor consumption, sanitize, and make sure customers are following current guidelines, including wearing a mask and social distancing.

"Has there been a flagrant disregard in some cases, I’m sorry to tell you, yes," said Chucri "Have there been challenges when people consume too much and say ‘what COVID-19? We don’t have to do anything.’ that’s a difficult balance to strike as well."