Posted: February 5, 2021 Keeping Service Industry Employees Safe Amid COVID-19
The Lismore Hotel | 333 Gibson St, Eau Claire, WI 54701 | (715) 835-8888
Dive | 333 Gibson St, Eau Claire, WI 54701 | (715) 318-7322
The Informalist | 205 S Barstow St, Eau Claire, WI 54701 | (715) 318-7399
ECDC | 205 S Barstow St, Eau Claire, WI 54701 | (715) 318-6461
“I feel so deeply for service industry employees right now who don't have a choice but to go back to work. If they refuse hours, they can't collect unemployment. And if they go to work, they put themselves at risk in a lot of ways,” shared Rita Dorsey, General Manager of The Lismore Hotel in Eau Claire, WI. “I don't want my staff to feel that way. I don't want anybody to feel that way. But I have control over this building.”
The Lismore Hotel, and its associated restaurants and bars—The Informalist, ECDC, and Dive—have adapted amid the pandemic to keep people safe and employed. With all operations closed March 26 through June 1, 2020—including hotel service, events, and restaurants—the ownership group, Pablo Properties, didn’t lay off a single employee. “We were closed for months. . .other owners would have laid off the GM or furloughed the GM until they reopened, none of that happened here,” shared Dorsey.
Since reopening the Lismore on June 1, 2020, along with The Informalist and ECDC for room service and takeout (Dive remains closed), Dorsey’s main goal is to keep staff members safe and employed. This requires safe and creative revenue-generating ideas. Dorsey said they’ve been saying one phrase a lot lately: ‘safe revenue.’ “When we talk about taking an event or a private event, [we ask], ‘Is it safe revenue?’ How can we generate revenue in a safe way?”
As the strictest private event facility in the area, Dorsey said The Lismore’s COVID-19 policies are a draw for some people and a setback for others. “We've had to deal with people coming in and harassing baristas because they don't want to wear a mask, or whatever it might be,” shared Dorsey. “We don't want to attract those kinds of guests. We want to attract guests who care about safety, believe this is a massive global health issue, and know that it requires all of us to be responsible.”
Beyond hand sanitizing stations and mask requirements in shared spaces, Dorsey says they’ve changed the way they do food service during private events. “We take our staff out of the room entirely and host a buffet outside of the room,” she said, explaining how this protects employees. As a testament to these efforts, among others, The Lismore repeatedly ranks in the highest of all Doubletree hotels under the Hilton franchise for cleanliness and its COVID-19 response.
When asked how the community can support The Lismore Hotel and its restaurants during COVID-19, Dorsey said, “First and foremost, be kind to our staff. . .People can be monsters. Add in a hyper-politicized pandemic, and it’s just through the roof.” If Dorsey’s staff has to deal with problem guests, she’s quick to support them, adding, “...if someone comes in and they're not following the rules, they can be asked to leave.”
If you want to enjoy high-quality food, or just take a break from cooking, consider ordering takeout from The Informalist, or ordering breakfast or lunch from ECDC. The Informalist features everything from porchetta with creamy polenta to a variety of house-made pizzas. ECDC offers things like house-made biscuits and gravy and mai tai smoothies. Dorsey said a lot of the business they’re seeing right now is from longtime guests who simply want to support them. “Maybe they don't need to eat out as often as they're eating out. I think they’re supporting us because they know restaurants are struggling right now.”
Scaling back services amid COVID-19, although necessary, has been a bummer for Dorsey and her team. “I literally sit in front of a computer screen now for eight hours a day. And that's not what I love about hospitality. . .We would all love to open [fully]. We know that people would come,” but the leadership team doesn’t want to expose the staff to unnecessary risk. “[Our staff] doesn’t have a choice about coming to work if we assign them hours,” Dorsey said, “and we're only willing to assign them hours that are safe.”
If you have the means to financially support The Lismore, The Informalist, or ECDC, order curbside or book a staycation. If that’s not in your budget, Dorsey said positive reviews go a long way. Leave a review on TripAdvisor, post a review on Yelp for ECDC or The Informalist, or leave a rating on Facebook or Google. Please note: Operating levels referenced in this article are subject to change.