The service industry has faced many unique challenges in the last few years, between shutdowns, decimated staffing levels, and now a rise in food prices, causing an increase in tensions between guests and staff. But tensions escalated so dramatically in one northern Michigan bar and restaurant that the owner shut her establishment down early. On a Saturday night. In the height of tourist season.
Larah Moore owns East Park Tavern in Charlevoix, Michigan, a picturesque city at the top of the "ring finger" of the Lower Peninsula with tall, leafy trees, close proximity to Lake Michigan, and a deep blue lake of its own, making it a popular destination for tourists in summer and fall.
Last Saturday evening, during the Venetian Festival, an annual event that attracts about 100,000 people to the city, a time when East Park Tavern should have been bustling with activity, Moore elected to close its doors an hour early. She posted a note on the hostess stand to explain the early closure:
"Due to the mistreatment of our Servers our kitchen is closed," the note reads.
She then took to Facebook to offer a more detailed explanation:
"I've worked in downtown Charlevoix most of my adult life during Venetian. It's usually great, busy, but fun and worthwhile. I'm so incredibly disappointed and embarrassed by the [tourists] we have this year. My staff took a BEATING all week. Last night was our last straw. Too many rude comments. Too many arrogant individuals acting like they can throw money at us to get their way. Too many cocky jerks. No one gets to treat my staff like trash. They are the absolute shining stars in my life and I love and appreciate the hell out of the few of them that I am lucky enough to have. If you push your servers, watch them start to push back. We are here to ensure great food, drinks and quality of your time spent with us. We are not here to be abused. We will not tolerate that anymore."
Since Sunday morning, the post has received over 3.7K likes and 6.6K shares. Most of the comments express support for Moore and sympathy for the reportedly rude patrons. However, others suggest that restaurants have taken advantage of people's patience, blaming staffing shortages and COVID for indifferent attitudes and poor service from staff.
A person identified as Max S. from Grand Rapids, Michigan, gave East Park a one-star review on Yelp and offered the following criticism: "Owner claims 'short-staffing' and rude customers, but the bottom line is the staff treats customers like crap and provide terrible service and don't want accountability. When we were there, multiple servers were milling around, ignoring tables, chatting amongst themselves. Terrible service, terrible attitudes for friendly visitors."
The Venetian Festival ended on Saturday. It is unknown whether East Park will return to normal summer business hours this weekend.