DES MOINES, Iowa — Nearly a year ago at this time, dining in Iowa bars and restaurants was shut down. “That was the problem. At the start we didn’t know what was going on. We didn’t know how it would affect us,” said Jeff Bruning, the owner and marketing director of Full Court Press.
Inside the Iowa Taproom in Des Moines’ East Village, a job fair Tuesday serves as a literal sign of better days ahead. Bruning said, “We’ve seen a great turnout so far. I think we have hired people on the spot.”
Full Court Press operates over a dozen bars and restaurants in the metro. “We are wearing masks We are playing it safe. We still have a lot of the separation going on and just feeling it out,” said Bruning.
As restrictions have lifted, the need to hire created two separate two-hour sessions of hopeful candidates like Brent Gordon. They were able to apply to all Full Court Press businesses in one space. “I thought it was a really good opportunity to get a bunch of them done at once,” Gordon said.
Gordon experienced the long dark shadow COVID-19 cloaked over the restaurant industry firsthand. “The customers have to be there for the industry to work. The toughest part is the customers cut down. Everyone was careful and safe and that is good and everyone should be,” Gordon said. As a manager at a Court Avenue establishment, Gordon says day-to-day worries under the pandemic were too much to bear. “Up until December, I was working as a manager there and kind of resigned just out of the stress of the situation,” said Gordon.
With a state positivity rate now hovering around 4%, some of that stress is wearing off. “I think we are moving in the right direction. Everyone is getting vaccinated here and there and it’s loosening up a little bit,” Gordon said.
Another sign of hope is Mother Nature. As the temperature rises, so will the number of customers on patios at places like Rita’s Cantina, which will expand seating and revenue. Bruning said, “A place like Rita’s, our brand-new place last year opened up during the pandemic. It opened in April because we had outdoor seating. It did way better than we would have expected.”
It’s signs and expectations many restaurant owners hope can replace what used to be the new normal. Bruning said, I hope a big upswing in all restaurants across the metro.”
Full Court Press says it is still accepting applications. You can apply by visiting their website at fullcourtpressdm.com