By Beth Lawrence

 

Many of Jackson County’s restaurants are not requiring their staff to be vaccinated, but some are encouraging it.

An informal phone survey conducted by The Herald found that some Jackson County restaurants encouraged but did not require employees to take the vaccine, and many staffers complied. Several restaurants reported at least half of workers were vaccinated. Many of the restaurants required masking and other preventative measures. A few did not encourage the vaccine or masking for workers.

One restaurateur encouraging vaccines is Mick McCardle, owner of Lulu’s on Main.

“We’re definitely encouraging people to be vaccinated,” he said. “And the vast majority of our people are, or they have a medical reason.”

For those with a medical reason, McCardle required proof from a medical provider.

McCardle is taking other measures to protect both his employees and his customers. Masks are required, employees presenting with COVID or any other symptoms are sent home and anyone who was exposed to that person is required to quarantine or have a negative test before returning to work.

“And we’re doing all the spacing and still doing all the requirements,” he said. “It has cost us some seat spaces, obviously. But we’re being about as absolutely strict as we possibly can be and still stay open.”

McCardle has not had much pushback from employees after a few rumblings early on from one or two. He has mostly heard positive comments from his staff who think the safety requirements and encouraging vaccines is a good idea.

Under normal circumstances Lulu’s can seat 120 people. They have added outdoor seating and, weather permitting, can still seat from 60 to 80 people at a time.

The reduced capacity makes it a little easier for wait staff to distance from customers as much as possible.

McCardle has also taken some items off the menu that require a large amount of tableside service to reduce contact between staff and customers.

Additionally, they are no longer placing items such as rolled silverware and sugar dispensers on tables. Sugar and creamer are being served in individual servings.

“I actually have a little disclaimer on the tables that says, ‘If there’s something that isn’t normally here or that you think we should be doing, we know it.’ We’re just not doing it on purpose. It certainly detracts from the aesthetics, but maybe not if it’s a positive thing to do. I think people appreciate that and understand it.”

Lulu’s is also temporarily discouraging large parties.

The practice is costing him business, but McCardle thinks it is the right thing to do.

He recently turned down a gathering of 75 people who would be coming in from various areas out of town.

“I said, ‘I’m sorry. I just can’t do it,” McCardle said. “I can’t risk exposing my employees or your guests to those unknown things.”

Cutting some services, making changes to the way things are done and creating new standards for staff and customers just makes good sense even if it may cost him some profits in the long run, he said.

 “We’re going to go out of our way to make sure that people feel safe in the environment we have for them and are not going to let the need for income take the place of good common sense and safety,” McCardle said. “We’re kind of in this together, and everybody needs to understand that.”